It has been almost a year and a half since Nina Trader and her husband Derek Braasch made their way up into Central DuPage Hospital. But now instead of pushing a stroller, they push a cart packed with boxes full of books. It’s all in the name of Sophia, the premature baby girl they lost.
“This was our first child. We went through fertility issues for seven years before conceiving her,” Nina Trader said. “She was 25 weeks and a day. Only 15 ounces. It was tough.”
The family spent weeks in the NICU. Sophia’s passing had the couple drowning in grief. They knew they needed to find a way to turn their pain into purpose.
Dr. Jeffrey Lawhead is the medical director of the NICU at Central DuPage Hospital.
“In the rare occasions when things don’t end up well, the families are really trying to figure out what it’s all about, what’s the meaning of it and how can we honor our daughter or son’s existence,” he said.
Nina Trader and Derek Braasch found it in the same place where their daughter was born.
They stocked a cart full of new children’s books for other NICU parents to read to their own babies.
It’s called Sophia’s Little Library.
“Being able to give back in a positive way and help NICU parents get through minute-to-minute. (And) Help them have a happy moment with their baby,” Nina Trader said. “.Just knowing we’re able to provide that in Sophia’s honor has really helped us heal on another level.”
They put out a call for book donations hoping to collect around 100. They never imagined what transpired next.
“It just exploded,” Nina Trader said. “People we don’t even know, people dropping off books, someone dropped off four big boxes of books. It’s amazing.”
There were enough books to build six Sophia’s Little Libraries in six other hospitals.
For Nina Trader and Derek Braasch, Sophia’s Little Library has allowed them to push forward through their own hardest chapter and to rewrite the ending.
“It’s leaving such a legacy for her,” Nina Trader said. “She’s going to be remembered by this.”
“They’ve been able to find new meaning in that and really honor their child’s life as brief as it may be,” Lawhead said. “And that’s something ongoing and that can live on forever.”
To date, more than 2,000 children’s books have been donated to area hospitals NICUs in Sophia’s name.
Book donations for Sophia’s Little Library can be sent to:
Nina & Derek Braasch
PO Box 8227
Elburn, IL 60119.