(WFLA) – When a Colorado baby was born prematurely, a local police force sprang into action and formed a “cuddle watch” to help look over him, according to TODAY.
Axle Winch came into the world with health problems that may have left him blind, deaf and with skeletal problems. He weighed only two pounds and 12 ounces. His family was told he might not make it.
“There were many times we didn’t think he was going to live. He would die in our arms and the nurses would scramble to revive him,” his father, Adam, 45, told TODAY.
Axel spent a week in the neonatal intensive care unit in Grand Junction, Colorado, before he was airlifted, with his mother Melissa, 38, almost 200 miles to Aurora, Colorado.
In Aurora, the newborn underwent multiple surgeries to help his underdeveloped lungs and brain.
Melissa, a uniformed police officer, and Adam, a former police officer, took extra time off from work to be by his side.
When one of Melissa’s colleagues reached out to the Aurora Police Department and explained the family’s situation, the agency sprang into action to help the couple.
“We were in a city where we didn’t know anyone, but the local cops started showing up to check in on us,” Adam told BBC News.
The agency started raising money and one officer even offered her mother-in-law’s suite to the couple as a place to stay.
“There was enough money for us to pay our bills for over a month,” Adam said. “We know we have cops from Aurora showing up out of the blue … Just literally coming in there hugging us, telling us stories, cooing and hugging Axel.”
After a few months, the couple had to go back to work, but Axel still wasn’t strong enough to leave the hospital.
“We were afraid he was going to die while we were gone,” Adam said.
Sargent Mike Pitrusu, head of the employee support and wellness unit learned of their worries and came up with the idea to form a “cuddle watch.”
About 20 officers volunteered to visit in shifts to cuddle with Axel.
“We wanted to provide more support for Axel,” Pitrusu said. “I put a schedule out to our group. It filled pretty quickly.”
They would take pictures of their visit and send them to the Winches. The agency said officers held him so much that they were scolded by nurses.
“He is so spoiled now he just wants to be held,” said Pitrusu.
“The officers got a ton out of it,” he continued. “It offered quite a bit to their mental health.”
The Winches felt overwhelmed by the support.
“This meant the world to us,” Adam said.
Axel returned home in mid-November. He is able to see and hear better and is learning to breastfeed.
“Multiple doctors and nurses have said ‘This is a miracle. This kid wasn’t supposed to live,’” said Adam, whose family receiving help via GoFundMe. “He is a fighter.”