July 2022 – Preemie Professional

Kelli Kelley
Founder & CEO of Hand to Hold

“The NICU is hard. We’re here to help. Hand to Hold® provides support to parents at no cost to families and all support is designed with the NICU parent’s emotional, physical and social needs as a priority.” – Kelli Kelley

PREEMIEWORLD: How long have you been working in your field?

KELLI: As a NICU parent, I have been working with preemies since my son was born 22 years ago. Hand to Hold has been providing emotional support to NICU parents for over a decade.

PREEMIEWORLD: Why did you choose your current profession?

KELLI: My son, Jackson was born at 24 weeks gestation and spent four long and difficult months in the NICU. Two years later, my daughter was born at 34 weeks gestation and experienced medical complications related to a blood disorder. The traumatic birth of my children and their subsequent NICU stays had a direct impact on my mental health and that of my husband. I founded Hand to Hold because I believe NICU and bereaved parents should have access to free, early intervention mental health support services including direct bedside support, support groups and counseling to ensure the best outcome for the baby and family.

PREEMIEWORLD: What do you want other professionals to know about what you do?

KELLI: Hand to Hold’s resources focus on supplementing the family-centered care NICU parents receive while in the NICU. In addition to resources for NICU parents, Hand to Hold provides resources for NICU professionals to network, learn, and earn CEU credits through our NICU Heroes Podcast, our Annual Community Conference, and more.

PREEMIEWORLD: What advice do you give to preemie parents?

KELLI: Be aware of the impact of a traumatic birth and NICU stay on your personal mental health and that of your partner. NICU parents are at a higher risk for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders which long-term can have a direct impact on how you bond with and care for your baby. Connecting with a mental health peer specialist at Hand to Hold can help you navigate the NICU journey and beyond.

PREEMIEWORLD: Fun Facts: Tell us a fun or quirky fact about you:

KELLI: I love dachshunds, and my black & tan longhaired dachshund, Annabelle, comes to work with me.

PREEMIEWORLD: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

KELLI: We would like to invite NICU Parents and NICU Professionals to our 2nd Annual NICU Community Conference. Our conference is free to attend, virtual, and NICU professionals can earn CEU credits. Save the date for November 2 – 4, 2022. Register or learn more at handtohold.org/conference

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