Demi Frandsen did the hardest thing any mother will ever have to do—she said goodbye to her 10-month-old son when he died unexpectedly in October. But even while suffering a terrible loss, the Omaha mother has managed to bless other families who are going through trying circumstances. She became the largest donor of breast milk ever at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha.
“Leo was born 2 months early and he was diagnosed with gastroschisis. There was no skin to pull over his exposed organs. It was kind of a new case they had not seen before,” Demi Frandsen told WOWT News this week.
The baby spent all 10 months of his life in the NICU at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, but his family did their best to make the most of the time they spent together. He got to go outside on occasion and spent time with his older brother, Sawyer.
Frandsen said she often felt helpless as she hovered over baby Leo in the NICU, but breastfeeding was one thing she felt like she could do to help.
“With a Q-tip we’d put it in my milk and we’d swab his mouth,” she said.
Even though Leo couldn’t tolerate much milk, his mom still woke herself up and pumped every three hours and donated the excess milk to Children’s Hospital—the largest donation ever received there.
“My final donation was 17,503 ounces…which is 131 gallons. So, a dairy aisle, basically,” Frandsen said.
Tammi Martin, a lactation consultant with Children’s, worked with Frandsen while Leo was in the hospital.
“With all that was going on in her life she found it in her heart to give to other babies,” Martin told WOWT.
The milk was sent to the Denver Milk Bank, where it was sterilized and pasteurized, and some of it likely ended up right back at Children’s Hospital, where it helped countless other babies.
Martin said the donated milk is used “for our babies that are very small, for our sickest, tiniest babies whose mothers can’t provide the milk they need.” She added, “We talk about all the good, positive qualities of breast milk that formula doesn’t have and our smallest babies need those antibodies, those protective factors and growth factors.”
That was the reason Leo’s mom kept up the grueling task of pumping her milk around the clock, for months on end.
Leo passed away unexpectedly on October 22.
“He was worth it. He was worth all of this. His life in 10 months was the best 10 months of mine,” said Frandsen.
“We’re still trying to figure out how to live our lives without such a big part of it. You know, a little piece of our soul.”
“We miss our Leo, and it’s not even day to day—it’s moment to moment,” Frandsen said.