NICU babies celebrate Mardi Gras in festive attire
During Christmas, babies in Forrest General’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit were decked out in Santa hats waiting for a visit from St. Nick. Fast forward a couple of months and the little ones now in the Krewe of the NICU are donning their purple, green and gold Mardi Gras hats, crowns, headbands and even tutus and are ready to let the good times roll. Come Easter, they may be wearing bunny ears.
While the NICU is a serious place, employees in that department go out of their way to make special times of the year a little bit brighter for their tiniest patients and their families.
A window in the waiting room is decorated with signage in Mardi Gras colors and once inside the unit, balloons, beads, and other items mimic the gold, green and purple colors of the season.
Ashley Beasley, RN, who taught herself to crochet, said the unit gets great support from women in the community who donate hats.
“It’s actually what inspired me to start,” said Beasley, who began with Christmas hats, and then branched out to the Mardi Gras-inspired crowns and headbands.
Matthew Updegraff, RN, is part of the NICU team and understands how stressful a NICU admission is for a family.
“When a holiday is approaching, we start brainstorming ideas of fun things to do,” he said. “Since Ashley is the only one that crochets, we usually get her busy on the latest project while we come up with other things.
He said parents always love photos, and NICU parents are no different, so the team typically tries to incorporate that into the plan.
“Mardi Gras is one of my favorite times of year so we decided to do something a little different for our patients,” he said, noting that parents are always so appreciative of the extra time the nurses in the unit spend doing something. “Our NICU is focused on family-centered care, and this gives us a unique opportunity to incorporate that into what we do. This is a stressful job, so it's fun to add extra projects like this from time to time.”
Rachael Gardner, RN, said the Mardi Gras season is just another reason for the unit to do what they enjoy.
“Alexis Keyes, RN and I enjoy photography, so we use it during these special occasions to take photos of the hospital's smallest and most fragile patients,” she said. “Respiratory therapist Susan McNeil helps safely position and pose each baby according to their specific needs or equipment while Alexis and I take and edit the photos. The excitement it brings to the families is thanks enough. We're not quite sure what's next, but be on the lookout for what we come up with.”
While the seasonal creations add a festive touch to the NICU, they are also important in helping these wee ones with heat regulation.
External sources like blankets, hats and such help these babies keep their body temperatures up, which is a problem with preemie babies, according to Courtney.
“The head of the babies are the biggest body surface they have, and so if you leave that uncovered, it is exposed to the drops in temperature, and the babies can't tolerate being outside isolettes for very long. We can put the hats on their heads, and that keeps them warm enough that parents can hold them for a little while, and they can help maintain their own body temperature."
According to Leigh Ann Leonard, RN, Patient Care Manager of NICU and Pediatrics, the NICU is a very special place where patients, their families, and the hospital staff develop a special bond. “We get very close to our patients and their families. When we can do something fun like this to brighten their day, it really warms our hearts to see their smiles. While we work hard to make sure our patients are getting the best clinic care possible, we also know the value of those personal touches. I’m proud to work with such caring staff.”
A patient in Forrest General’s NICU dons a Mardi Gras crown and beads in celebration of the season.
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