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Above: Sarah Klages provides skin-to-skin care for baby Thomas in 2014

Together with a group of very special donors, Sinai Health is bringing the benefits of human milk to fragile babies in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) across Ontario.

Thomas Klages was one of those babies. He arrived three months before his due date, weighing just 1 pound, 13 ounces. For preemies like Thomas, mother’s milk is more than food. It protects them from life-threatening infections while helping them develop and adjust to life outside the womb.

But Thomas didn’t have the benefit of his mom’s milk.

Twenty-six weeks into her pregnancy, Sarah Klages was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Chemotherapy gave the Klages family 10 precious months together, yet deprived Sarah of the ability to produce milk for her son.

When doctors offered human donor milk — the next-best alternative — Sarah and her husband Joe gladly accepted.

The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank, based at Mount Sinai Hospital, collects and pasteurizes surplus milk donated by nursing mothers. The milk is then dispensed by prescription to NICU babies, who don’t have access to a full supply of mother’s milk.

The gift of donor milk helped Thomas grow healthy and strong. Today he continues to thrive in his dad’s care, surrounded by a loving family who help sustain Sarah’s presence in Thomas’ life.

In honour of Sarah's memory, her sister Heather has generously donated her own breast milk to support other NICU families.