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Without Fantasy of Trees, hospital still in need of donations to help its littlest patients

Over the past three and a half decades, money raised through Fantasy of Trees has helped the hospital purchase several life-saving items for its patients

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Inside the neonatal intensive care unit at East Tennessee Children's Hospital, Taylar Collins places the oxygen tube in her son's nose before feeding him a bottle. 

“He came unexpectedly at 24 weeks. He’s now 30 weeks gestation, so he’s a little over three months old. The light’s coming there at the end of the tunnel," Collins said. 

When Jalen was born, doctors were able to place him inside a high-tech bed that served as an incubator. The Giraffe Omni bed was purchased with money raised at the hospital's annual Fantasy of Trees fundraiser. 

"Those are really important pieces of equipment here in the NICU. We use them for our tiniest patients, and they remain in them for sometimes months. As they are able to grow, it keeps them warm, it keeps their skin in good condition and helps them grow into the type of babies we want to send home," Dr. Melinda Harris, a neonatologist, said. 

Credit: East Tennessee Children's Hospital
Taylar Collins holds her son in the NICU at Children's Hospital.

Harris said the NICU relies on the annual fundraiser to purchase expensive life-saving items. In addition to the Giraffe Omni Bed, Harris said full-body cooling blankets have helped some of their littlest patients survive their first days of life. 

“We use that [full-body cooling blankets] in babies born on their due dates that have suffered some sort of injury to their brains because of a lack of oxygen at birth. So, we use that whole-body cooling for the first 72 hours of their life to help reduce the amount of brain injury that they have. It’s a really important piece of equipment, really expensive, but life-saving to many of these babies," Harris said. 

She's disappointed with the cancellation of this year's Fantasy of Trees because they've come to rely on the money raised there. 

“It is really sad that we can’t have the actual event this year, but again, we need those funds just like we need them every year. So, please consider continuing to donate this year as if we were having the event, and then hopefully we’ll be able to have it again next year," Harris said.

Collins said she often think about the equipment that saved her son's life. 

“If there was none of those beds or ventilators donated or the money to go towards them, then there’s a lot of babies here that would never have a chance at life," Collins said. 

East Tennessee Children's Hospital is hosting a virtual raffle throughout the month of November to give away two loaded Christmas trees with gifts from Walmart and The Home Depot. Tickets are available through midnight on Nov. 29, 2020. There will be a live drawing on Nov. 30, 2020, to reveal the winners. Raffle tickets are $10. 

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