Each year, countless families across the country have to find a way to celebrate the holidays from inside a hospital. Parents of premature babies are often battling through stressful, emotionally trying times as their babies fight to survive. But at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, the tiny preemies still get to celebrate holidays like Halloween — complete with tiny, adorable costumes.
By partnering with the March of Dimes, the hospital makes sure that preemies get to wear their first costumes. “Every day, a child in the NICU can be frightening and uncertain, but holidays are especially tough, as families miss the normal joys of celebrations at home,” Rebecca Keunen, March of Dimes/NICU family support coordinator for St. Luke’s, said. Parents get to keep the precious photos of their babies dressed as butterflies and ladybugs, Wonder Woman and Batman.
Nurses and volunteers work together to bring the holidays into the NICU each year. “The idea is to be able to allow parents to have a sense of normalcy,” Michelle Manual, St. Luke’s director of media relations, said in an interview with ABC News. “In the NICU you might be there for weeks or months and this is to help spend that first Halloween and those special first moments together—make those special family memories with us.”
And the most popular costumes? Superheroes, and for good reason. “These are our NICU super babies,” Manuel said.
Premature babies are now able to survive at younger and younger ages — but it depends entirely on the attitude of the hospital treating them, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Edward Bell, one of the study’s leaders, said that parents needed to know that “the hospital that you go to might determine what happens to your baby, although many parents are not in a position to shop around when they find themselves in these emergency situations.” Some hospitals are only willing to give comfort care to preemies, as opposed to active treatment. A baby born at 22 weeks was 18 percent more likely to survive if he or she received active treatment versus purely comfort care.
It seems evident that there is a bias — the youngest preemies may survive, but potentially with significant disabilities, which is why so many doctors refuse active treatment. So the attitude of the hospital can mean the difference between life and death.
And no matter how small a baby may be, he or she deserves the chance not only to live, but to be celebrated… as St. Luke’s staffers show.