Pittsburgh Hospital Unveils Suite for Families Coping with Perinatal Loss

By HCO Staff   

PITTSBURGH, Pa.—Leadership from Allegheny Health Network’s (AHN) Women’s Institute, AHN West Penn and Development Office honored one local family Tuesday recently with a plaque presentation to mark the official opening of the hospital’s Butterfly Suite. Designed under the clinical direction of Marta Kolthoff, MD, perinatologist and physician lead of AHN’s perinatal palliative care program, the suite will serve as a designated labor & delivery room with adjacent, private waiting area for families coping with babies born still or babies whose lives will be brief.

The Butterfly Suite is a first-of-its-kind for patients in western Pennsylvania as it’s a fully equipped clinical space staffed by AHN caregivers trained in perinatal loss and bereavement. The official opening of the suite was made possible through the generosity of the West Penn Hospital Foundation and Becky and Jeff Keenan who envisioned the Butterfly Suite in honor of their second son, Caleb, who was born still on Memorial Day weekend in 2020.

“It has been a tremendously rewarding experience working with AHN West Penn and Dr. Kolthoff to open the Butterfly Suite,” said Becky Keenan. “In any hospital, the labor and delivery floors are often filled with celebrations and congratulatory wishes but for a bereaved family, this atmosphere can unintentionally add to their pain and suffering. By designating an official space for those coping with loss, it helps to ensure families are afforded the privacy, compassion and individualized care they need and deserve.”

The opening of the Butterfly Suite at AHN West Penn is a notable extension of Olivia’s Angels, one of the region’s most comprehensive perinatal palliative and miscarriage support programs. Through the program, a team of AHN physicians and caregivers support and care for patients who have experienced a sudden perinatal loss or receive a diagnosis that their child’s life will be limited. In certain instances, Olivia’s Angels can schedule elective c-sections so mom can spend more time with baby while still alive or alternatively, assist women in their delivery of babies born still.

“Today’s plaque presentation will not only honor the memory of Caleb Keenan but also serve as a testament to the countless number of families who have experienced perinatal loss,” explained Dr. Kolthoff. “I strongly believe the suite’s design, discreet location and meaningful purpose will serve as an outstanding model for similar programs across the country, and together with the great work of Olivia’s Angels, will help us to raise more awareness about the need for standardized, wraparound care for families dealing with babies born still or with a life limiting diagnosis.”

The suite is located on a private corner of the labor and delivery floor at AHN West Penn. To enter, patients and their families have exclusive keycard access to a separate entry point which opens to a private waiting area and connecting labor & delivery suite. Notably separated from obstetric patients in labor via double doors, the space is completely soundproof, decorated with abstract art and furnished with ample soft seating for the patient’s entire support group.

Founded in 2017, Olivia’s Angels is currently embedded in every AHN labor and delivery program throughout the region and provides comprehensive training to all caregivers carried out in coordination with the AHN Women’s Behavioral Health Institute and the AHN Perinatal Trauma Informed Care Clinic.

“When working with the Keenans, we took their vision of making ‘someone’s most awful day, less awful,’ and transformed a space into a vital respite for families coping with tremendous loss,” said Allie Quick, chief development officer at AHN. “We want to thank the Keenans for their ongoing support of Olivia’s Angels as today’s official opening will undoubtedly serve as a catalyst to reinforce the need to introduce highly-specialized care for those facing perinatal loss across the country.”

In addition to clinical care, the Olivia’s Angels team discharges families with keepsakes to remember their children by, such as casted footprints and memory books, reinforces the importance of calling their children by name and hosts bi-annual events to bring families together and find solace in their community. Most recently, the team also launched a virtual support group series for the public to come together and share experiences with perinatal loss and miscarriage. The group meets monthly and those interested can visit ahn.org to register; participants do not have to be established AHN patients to attend.

In the United States, it’s estimated that roughly 24,000 babies are stillborn (at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later) each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.