New York City

Mom Who Lost Newborn Son Inspired to Create Comfort Boxes for Other Grieving Moms

One week after Elizabeth Ortiz gave birth to son Ellisander, he died from a rare pre-natal defect.

Ellisander had omphalocele, which causes the intestines, liver and occasionally other organs to grow outside the body. 

"It's hard because he was fighting inside me the whole 33 weeks," said Ortiz, who lives in Corona, Queens. "He was kicking and moving." 

The loss inspired her to reach out to other suffering families. She began assembling comfort boxes -- small tokens of comfort to a mother or family grieving over the death of an infant. 

Ortiz chooses items like a small teddy bear, a notebook for journaling, a beaded bracelet for personalizing. 

"I just wanted to share love with other families to let them know there are other people out there who care about them," she said.

Her husband, a New York City firefighter, had just started the academy when Ellisander died.

"It brings me comfort," Elvis Valerio said of the comfort boxes. "It can never bring me closure, I will always miss my son. But comfort it does." 

Six-year-old son Elias Valerio said, "I'm starting to feel good again since we're starting to do stuff for Ellisander." 

Support for Elizabeth's effort have grown: Friends of Firefighters and the FDNY Hispanic Society are helping with a fundraiser for June in the Friends of Firefighters quarters in Red Hook.

"To lose an infant is devastating," said Nancy Carbone of Friends of Firefighters. "To have someone to talk to is everything."

And even as Ortiz excitedly awaits the expected arrival of twin girls in just a few days, the boxes remain a tangible connection between a grieving family and another. 

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