Parents and newborn children going through a difficult time this December got the chance to meet some special guests Thursday and get in the holiday spirit as well.
Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) families at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin sometimes don’t know how long they will have to stay in the hospital. It is oftentimes an unexpected and stressful time for everyone involved. So, to help lighten the mood and put a smile on everyone’s faces, Santa and Mrs. Claus visited Thursday afternoon and took photos with families.
Rhonda Reed is the director of the NICU at St. David’s, and she said her staff loves this day almost as much as the families.
"Often the NICU journey is difficult,” Reed said. “They're having to leave their baby in a hospital, particularly over the holidays. We want to provide an opportunity where we can celebrate together and have a little time with Santa and Mrs. Claus.”
There were 35 families that got to meet these two Thursday. Kate Ward is a part of one of these families, as her baby boy, Ethan, was born five weeks early with some respiratory distress. She said today gave her family a chance to pause for a second and forget about everything they’ve been dealing with.
"This just kind of added a little cheer -- unexpected cheer,” Ward said. “We now have a memory that we'll be able to have forever, even though this sometimes seems really kind of difficult."
Ethan is doing much better now, and his parents will get to take him home soon. They, along with all the other parents, will take home their printed picture with Santa and Mrs. Claus in a card.
"It adds that special touch here that makes us feel a little bit more like we're at home,” Ward said. “It feels special."
"You can just see the smiles on their faces and their joy is worth it,” Reed said.
This visit is also in collaboration with a nonprofit called “Hand to Hold.” The center also set up a room to let parents make holiday cookies, hot cocoa and ornaments.