TODAY | October 04, 2012
>>> on a special series celebrating la vida latina . "today" contributing correspondent jenna bush -hager has her story.
>> good morning. when her own son zachary was born a premie, she developed a way for him to feel her love. now her invention is used in hundreds of hospitals worldwide.
>> reporter: as a little girl growing, she dreamed of becoming an engineer.
>> i always loved the technical field. i love math and my dad was an engineer.
>> reporter: she came to the u.s. and got her ph.d. in industrial engineering . she also fell in love with a texan named larry. they married and five years later, yamile was pregnant. but their joy was cut short.
>> i was pregnant, and i had pre preeclampsia. i always say he was born to save me because i was the one that was sick.
>> reporter: zachary was born weighing less than 2 pounds.
>> you were a first-time mom, a new mom, and you would spend all day with your son.
>> but you were told at night you needed to go home.
>> it's very unnatural for a mom to go home after giving birth without a child. doesn't get any easier. when you have a child and the house is supposed to be, you know, a mess and it is very quiet.
>> reporter: then the unthinkable. tropical storm allison flooded houston and shut down the hospital where little zachary was in the nicu , his life support cut off.
>> we had to keep him alive by hand for nine hours until he was evacuated. and i made a promise to help babies on his behalf.
>> reporter: and she wouldn't forget her promise. but how she would help other premature babies started with the garden glove.
>> one of the things i asked as soon as zachary was born was what are the things that are a common denominator for babies in the nicu when they grow.
>> she says they don't like to be touched. and i'm hispanic , we touch for everything. we say hello, good-bye, if you're happy, you're sad. i couldn't imagine giving zachary a life without enjoying human touch .
>> the doctor from the cleveland clinic explains.
>> they have ivs inserted, blood drawn by painful techniques and a lot of what we do causes pain. they have an aversion to touch later on.
>> and she came up with her own solution.
>> when i was in the nicu , the nurses taught me how to use my hand to comfort him. and so i was like, okay, i can do this, and i would hold him for the ten hours. i don't mind. but who's going to do that when i'm not there?
>> how did you decide, okay, i'm going to leave a glove so my scent's with him.
>> it was gardening season and i saw all the displays and i'm like, i wonder if i can use one of those and simulate my hand.
>> it was your engineering mind at work?
>> she left the glove covered in her scent with zachary overnight.
>> the nurse called me and said you know those little gloves you made for zachary , can you make them for the rest of the unit?
>> it took her 3 1/2 years pillows shaped like hands that simulate the shape, touch, and scent of a parent. they're used in more than 30 countries. and the little boy that inspired them is now 11 years old and thriving.
>> he's in fifth grade, and he loves the drums, he loves playing golf with larry, he loves art, and he loves to see how things are made.
>> so he's a little bit like his mother?
>> i think so.
>> you call him your cio.
>> is that right?
>> yes, he's our chief inspirational officer. and he has business cards that say that. everything i do is because of him. he gave me purpose of my life. and not just my personal life , but my professional life. so he's my inspiration.
>> she has also donated zachies to hospitals worldwide, and if a family wants to donate, she will also match their donation. she's doing such great work. and as a premie myself, a large premie grown up, i think she's incredible.
>> i did not know that about premies not wanting to be touch.
>> in honor of hispanic heritage, you can find a whole list of hispanic innovators.
>>> first this is "today" on nbc.