The hypnotic sway of a rocking chair, the deep quiet voice of a familiar visitor. The tiny fingers of an infant grasp round the solid thumb of a man who cares deeply for her. Unaware of the tubes coming from her body and draped across the lap of her human cradle, Fatima Ortiz-Cervantes slips gracefully into a slumber highlighted with rhythmic pats on her back and tender strokes across her cheeks.
Jim Donoghue, 64, who never had children of his own, will stay for hours if she needs him to. Every baby needs to be held - especially the ones spending their first fragile days in the UC Davis Medical Center Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit, where he volunteers. "They need somebody to take care of them and watch out for them," he said.
His love will be felt after he's gone: He's willed all his earthly possessions to the care unit.
Today I am taking over as the photojournalist who will create the I Care photo column, which appears in the Sacramento Bee's Our Region section on Mondays. Here we profile stories of outstanding people who volunteer for various causes in the Sacramento region, celebrating the spirit of selfless giving.
I am beginning my work with I Care with a very special story, about Jim Donoghue, who is the most dedicated volunteer at the NCIU. The compassion that he has for these infants is touching to witness. A human connection is so vital to us all. It's something that cannot be quantified, only felt on a deep primal level. It doesn't matter who these babies are, or what their medical situation is, Donoghue will be there to hold them and comfort them in their time of need. Often parents cannot be present while their children stay there and nurses are busy. Donoghue fills the void for these infants, providing the nurturing that gives the spirit of these tiny individuals the will to heal and to survive. All it takes to make a difference for these babies is time, a warm lap and love.
To nominate your community hero for the I Care column please email Autumn Cruz at firstname.lastname@example.org.