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PROVO — His name is Luke Siemers, named after the "Star Wars" character Luke Skywalker, and just like the character, this Luke is a fighter. Born with a full head of hair eight weeks premature, he got a jump-start on his fight for life from donated breast milk.
"As a result of me having chronic hypertension and developing pre-eclampsia, the blood pressure medication that I'm on limits my milk supply," said his mother, Carolyn Siemers of Provo. She continued, "He didn't have to wait for me. He received the nutrients he needed right away from birth."
Luke Siemers weighed in at just 3 pounds, 5 ounces. The milk was liquid gold to his developing systems. Utah Valley Hospital NICU Department manager Jerold Wilcox said, "Oh, breast milk is so vital. It helps prime the gut for prevention stuff like necrotizing enterocolitis, which is a condition which can actually kill a baby."
He also said, "Getting the breast milk early helps them to develop antibodies and immunity issues for the baby to have a healthy start at life."
Last year the Mountain West Mother's Milk Bank named Utah Valley Hospital as the No. 1 user of donated milk in Utah. It received almost 12,000 ounces. The milk actually comes from Denver, where it's screened and pasteurized. New this month, Utah Valley Hospital is now set up to collect donations.
"We figured since we're the largest NICU, we might as well be the largest contributor to getting breast milk for donation," Wilcox said. They worked frantically for months to make all the necessary preparations.
The hospital now needs help filling its new, but empty temperature controlled freezer with donated breast milk. There is a process to become a donor. Women who want to donate must meet the following requirements:
- Have excess of their own baby's needs
- Be in excellent health without any chronic illness
- Be a nonsmoker
- Take only certain approved medications or herbs
And the first step is to call the Mountain West Mother's Milk Bank at 303-869-1888. It will ask you a series of questions to see if you are eligible to donate and then send you a packet to get your blood tested at no cost at Utah Valley's Outpatient Center. The hospital then sends the blood samples to Denver for testing.
Mother's like Carolyn Siemers can't thank the milk donors enough. "I just have to say thank you to them (donors) because they took away the one less stress that I had to worry about," Siemers said. "I knew my baby was getting the nutrients that he needed because of their generosity."