Nurses at a hospital in North Carolina have come up with an innovative idea of celebrating a new milestone for babies discharged from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
For the last six months, 28-year-old Melissa Jordan, a neonatal nurse at CaroMont Regional Medical Center in North Caroline, along with her colleagues, has been holding graduation ceremonies for babies leaving the NICU. The babies who stayed in the NICU were born six or more weeks premature.
For the ceremonies, besides being given “full honors,” each NICU grad receives a personalized graduation cap and portrait, the Buzzfeed reported.
The cap is made of foam sheets with a message that indicates the number of days the baby has stayed in NICU and that the baby has a whole life-time ahead.
Melissa got the idea of holding a ceremony when she saw one baby, who had stayed in NICU for over two months, was given an onesie with words “NICU grad” written on it by his parents.
“The day he got discharged, we gathered staff and we went in singing and dancing and gave him his cap — and his parents just smiled ear to ear — that’s when we knew it was something we wanted to keep doing for other families,” she recalled the day they held the first ceremony.
“When I started the program, I called Bella Baby Photography—they take pictures of all our babies going home—and asked if they could come photograph the NICU grads, and the photographer actually offered to give these pictures to the parents free of charge,” she said.
Not all babies get to have the ceremonies. Melissa said, “It’s just for babies born at 34 weeks of gestation or earlier—or 6 weeks premature—so they’ve been at the NICU for a while, and when they leave it’s a huge accomplishment not only for the baby but parents as well.”
“Leaving the NICU can be joyful but also scary and nerve-racking, so this was our way of bringing a little normalcy to taking the baby home,” she added.
To date, 14 babies have graduated, including three sets of twins. Melissa and her colleagues have a small wish: “Eventually, we hope to make a wall of graduates with these photos because it can also help give new parents in the NICU a little hope and reassurance,” she said.
Photos credit to: Bella Baby Photography