PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Jason and Alene D’Alesio have four beautiful girls at home and one angel baby named Gabriella.
Although Gabriella was not on earth for very long, her legacy is living on and helping other families with angel babies heal.
“It really was a sense of healing for us to be able to give back to others,” said Dr. Alene D’Alesio.
The hand models on display in the D’Alesio home look like the hands of tiny angels. They belong to Alexandra, Adrianna, Samantha and Sabrina D’Alesio.
Their mother, Alene, is a pediatric dentist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. She created the models with dental impression material when she and Jason first brought each of the girls home from the hospital.
The fifth D’Alesio sister and third born, Gabriella, never made it home.
“I was diagnosed with a subchorionic hematoma so that there were multiple times throughout the pregnancy that we were in the ER,” said Alene.
On July 5, 2010, and 24 weeks into Alene’s pregnancy, Gabriella came into the world.
“We were with her overnight, basically. As painful as it was, it was definitely a special time for Alene and I told hold her. And to be with her and they said she probably wouldn’t open her eyes or anything like that. So that was very special,” said Jason.
“But she did. She looked right at him,” said Alene.
The nurses took some pictures of Gabriella after she passed, but most were too upsetting for them to look at.
“I was even okay with the picture where she had the breathing tube in and she had all the monitors on because I knew she was alive and there was a chance,” said Alene.
They wanted to remember her with something more peaceful. In their backyard, they planted “Gabriella’s tree,” but never stopped wishing for a hand impression of Gabriella.
That’s how Gabriella’s Gift was born.
“The thought of having Gabriella and her memory really helping other people was the major takeaway that we wanted,” said Jason.
Now, at Children’s Hospital, the family of any angel baby is offered an angelic hand impression.
“They’re always so surprised with how it looks identical to their baby’s hand. Every wrinkle, every crease, you know, the long fingernails or all the little details or their own baby’s hand are preserved forever in stone for them,” said Alisa Vodzak, an RN who works in the NICU at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Jason and Alene donate the materials and the NICU nurses make the models. With it, is a picture card with Gabriella’s tree and a message about first impressions making lasting impressions.
“Gabriella’s Gift really just added something tangible and just so personal and so special. Those families just appreciate every bit of it,” said Sara Pinilla, an RN who initially helped implement the program in the NICU of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
The D’Alesios believe we all have a purpose.
“She has a purpose and we truly believe that there was a reason and you’re searching for that reason, but Gabriella’s Gift is that reason and she’s helping so many families,” said Alene.
Her sisters always keep her memory alive.
“The girls draw pictures. Gabriella always makes the pictures. She’s part of the family, which is awesome,” said Jason.
Now, with Gabriella’s Gift, her beautiful legacy will always live on.
“She’s special to me. She’s kind to all of us. And I love her,” said Sabrina D’Alesio.
Gabriella’s Gift has been in place at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for about a year and a half. Children’s is anticipating spreading the program to other units of the hospital.
There is also a bigger plan to spread it to the NICU at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC as well.