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Central Coast nurse helps grieving families after losing her own child hours after giving birth

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Ashley Agnitch
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Dignity Health nurse, Ashley Agnitch, and her family celebrate Greta Lynn's life and the success of getting Cuddle Cots at local hospitals.

A local nurse who lost her baby girl hours after giving birth, decided to turn her pain into something positive, by helping other mothers in her position.

In 2017 Dignity Health nurse, Ashley Agnitch, was pregnant with her second child. She was told during a check-up the news no parent wants to hear. Her unborn child had a genetic abnormality and was not expected to survive.

Agnitch and her husband sought out every resource available to see if they could bring their baby girl into the world despite the odds.

“Of course, when you’re pregnant, everyone wants to know ‘Oh, what are you having? How far along are you?’" said Agnitch. "And all of that is so fun, if you have a healthy baby.”

On April 12, 2017, at full term, Agnitch went into labor with her family by her side. She was aware her child may not survive delivery.

"She will always be a part of our lives and I wanted that to be recognized," Agnitch said. "I wanted to know that my family got to meet her, whether she was alive or not.”

Greta Lynn was born alive, and her family got to celebrate her life for five hours before she passed away.

Agnitch said when a baby dies in a hospital, families do not get to spend much time with their child, as the child has to be taken in and out of the morgue.

That's when Agnitch decided she wanted to help other families in her situation get more time to say goodbye.

"That's when I discovered these bassinets that are called cuddle cots,” Agnitch said.

A cuddle cot doesn’t look much different than any other baby bassinet. Except this one has a cooling unit disguised inside of it. This preserves the body, to give families the gift of time to say goodbye to their child.

Agnitch was able to crowdfund to get two of them on the Central Coast. One is at Marian Regional Medical center in Santa Maria and the other is at French Hospital in San Luis Obispo.

Agnitch has since had another child. Her children know about Greta Lynn and keep the memory of her alive by celebrating her birthday every year.

“If you’ve experienced a loss, it’s okay to celebrate your baby," Agnitch said. "When someone asks, 'How many babies do you have?' My answer is always, 'I have three.' I have two who are healthy and living, but my answer will always be that I have three kids.”

To learn about the cuddle cots and Agnitchs goal to bring them to more hospitals, click here.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.