SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A retired Sioux Falls man is getting recognition for his service to hundreds of KELOLAND babies. Clair Halverson has been a volunteer in the Sanford Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for eight years. He's a baby rocker and this year he was given a citizen award from the City of Sioux Falls for his efforts.
Leanne Valdez and her brand new daughter Amy have been huddled up here at the Sanford NICU since the beginning of the month.
"She's a miracle," Valdez said.
The family from Spearfish is a long way from home. Amy arrived early and with her intestines on the outside requiring surgery.
"I just wanted to cry but I was so tired because I was up all night thinking what's going to happen? Is she ok?" Valdez said. "But once I heard her cry everything went away and I was happy just to know she was out."
It's been a long month but the staff in the NICU has made life as comfortable as possible.
"It's very rewarding for me to be able to take a crying, fussing baby and help them get back to sleep," Halverson said.
Halverson is a baby rocker. Not a bad gig right? We're not quite sure who benefits the most from his volunteer time here at Sanford.
"Parents appreciate it. Nurses appreciate it and of course the baby appreciates it," Halverson said.
Halverson does too as you can tell. After 30 years of working with computers, he vowed to do something totally different in retirement. The humble man says he's one of many rockers trying to pitch in where they can.
"They are awesome. They are very important to our babies care," Director of NICU and Newborn Services Andrea Bunn said.
"Human touch is so vital for our babies as they grow, both physically and intellectually," Bunn said.
And with parents and nurses not able to be at baby's bedside 24/7, volunteers like Halverson keep development humming along.
"Since I'm not here at night, it's nice knowing that somebody is here able to hold her if she cries and rock her back to sleep," Valdez said.
Halverson admits in his years of tending to babies, no rocker is better than the baby's mother.
We're happy to report that the mother and daughter were released from the hospital today. From a pacifier to holding their hands and talking to them, Halverson says there are a lot of tricks to getting a baby to calm down.
This year he has already volunteered in the NICU for 623 hours.
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