These Premature Babies Leaving the NICU Celebrate With a Special Graduation Ceremony
Lifestyle| | By Margo Gothelf
For the nurses at CaroMont Regional Medical Center in North Carolina, graduation season is year-round.
The staff at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit hold a special graduation ceremony each time a premature baby leaves the hospital. 28-year-old Melissa Jordan originally came up with the idea after a baby, who was born at 29-weeks, was discharged after a 62-day stay.
“The family brought in a onesie that read ‘NICU Grad’ a day before [Wyatt’s] discharge,” Jordan told Inside Edition. “He was going home and I wanted to make it special for them because it had been a long time.”
The next day, Jordan returned with a homemade gradation cap for the tiny baby. She even called a photographer, who volunteered to come for free, to capture the special moment.
“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,” Jordan told BuzzFeed.
The program has been taking place for about six months and has been a hit every single time.
“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,” Jordan explained to BuzzFeed.
She continued, “Leaving the NICU can be joyful but also scary and nerve-wracking, so this was our way of bringing a little normalcy to taking the baby home.”
During the ceremony, each baby gets their own personalized cap. It says “NICU GRAD” and shares the number of days they were in the hospital. Each cap also has the saying, “A whole lifetime in front of me.” This gives the parents and the baby some encouraging words on the way out.
14 babies, including three sets of twins, have taken place in the ceremonies since Jordan came up with the idea.
“It’s overwhelming,” Jordan said to Inside Edition. “You’re happy, but you’re sad at the same time because you get so close to the babies and families. It’s a huge deal for the babies to be able to go home. It’s exciting to be able to give them this graduation hat.”
Melissa Jordan hopes the ceremony will share a sense of encouragement for parents who are just entering the NICU.
“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,” Melissa Jordan said to BuzzFeed.