After a taking care of a baby for 62 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at CaroMont Regional Medical Center, one nurse wanted to do something special. Before officially discharging the now thriving newborn, Melissa Jordan came up with the idea of having a celebration for the "NICU grad."
"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," Melissa told BuzzFeed.
Since then, this dedicated nurse and her team have instituted a NICU graduation program. Before each little one leaves, they present the family with a personalized graduation cap that honors how many days the baby spent in the unit as well as professional photos that capture this major achievement.
Bella Baby Photography was immediately charmed by the idea and provides its services to families for free so that each family can cherish how far their child has come. "It's just for babies born at 34 weeks of gestation or earlier — or six 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," Melissa said. "The program was started as a way to celebrate this milestone in the babies' lives."
Over the past six months, 14 babies have graduated from the NICU, and Melissa hopes to eventually make a wall of photos filled with graduates to give hope and reassurance to new NICU parents, as well as those who are getting ready to go home. "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," Melissa added.