A Big Heart for Tiny Patients

Apr 12, 2023


Amid the busy work of doctors, midwives, nurses and support staff in Family Birth Place, one woman’s work is of a quieter nature. You’ll find her arms wrapped around Adventist Health Portland’s tiniest patients — newborns in need of comfort as they struggle through drug withdrawal.

“I’ve always loved babies. They’re my absolute favorite,” explains Gloria Duarte-Rivera, retired registered nurse. She’s one of dozens of Adventist Health Portland volunteers who donate their time every week in support of patients and their caregivers.

Gloria’s love of babies drove her to work for 13 years in another hospital’s labor and delivery department, although her regular tasks rarely allowed much time to snuggle infants. Now, as a volunteer, her top priority is providing a warm, safe place for babies suffering from the effects of their mothers’ drug use during pregnancy.

Often these babies have to stay additional days in the nursery after their moms are discharged. Holding them in her arms and heart is Gloria’s calling.

“I snuggle them as close as I can,” she explains. “By holding them, I free up a nurse to help someone else in need. I’m thankful to the excellent nurses and staff for allowing me to hold these beautiful babies.” With her professional background, Gloria is also an extra set of eyes watching for adverse reactions in the babies.

What happens next with these infants varies. Some mothers want to enter rehab so they can become drug-free and take care of their babies. Others leave without meeting their child. Either way, social workers are involved to make sure each newborn ends up in a safe, caring and prepared home, often with foster families.

Until they do, they have Gloria. “Mostly I’m just there to hold the babies because they need it so desperately,” she says.

To learn more about our volunteers and how to become one, visit AdventistHealth.org/PortlandVolunteers.