Preemie success stories offer reassurance, hope to fearful NICU parents

March 15, 2018


Having a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit is very stressful for parents. To provide encouragement, a team in the NICU of Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, Calif., has created a gallery to get parents thinking about the good days to come.

Charge nurse Jennifer Dineen
Charge nurse Jennifer Dineen headed the "Hall of Hope" project.

The "Hall of Hope," exhibit is a series of 14 portraits and vignettes about the experience of children who spent the first weeks or months of their lives in the hospital's NICU and are now thriving.

The stories are told in the first-person voice of the child.NICU graduate Grayson was born 13 weeks early and weighed just 1 pound 4 ounces at birth. He spent 27 weeks in the NICU. His profile says "mom had to travel back and forth and she always knew that I was being cared for by the NICU team. I grew from one pound to a healthy little boy upon the NICU graduation. The nurses saved my life."

Lisa Marquez and her children
Lisa Marquez and her children, from left, Logan and Lyric Marquez, attend an unveiling of the photo collection in December. Logan's vignette is on the Hall of Hope. He was in the NICU for 28 days beginning May 27, 2012.

Jennifer Dineen, a charge nurse for the Mother-Child Unit, spearheaded the Hall of Hope. The project took about a year. She says expectant parents usually arrive at the hospital anticipating a smooth delivery and a quick return home as an intact family. But if babies are too small or experience complications and require NICU care, the worried parents must cope with the separation. "The parents often feel lost and confused about their roles in caring for their newborns while the babies are NICU patients," Dineen says.

The hospital's clinical staff, social worker and chaplains offer emotional and practical support to NICU parents, says Dineen.

NICU Nurse Manager Mara Collins says respiratory distress syndrome, hypoglycemia, feeding difficulties, hyperbilirubinemia and prematurity are the most common conditions seen in the hospital's 12-bed NICU. The NICU had 430 patients last year.

Dineen says NICU staff created the exhibit to honor the experience and pluck of babies and families they've cared for and to reassure parents with sick babies receiving intensive care.

A committee of unit staff mapped out and implemented the Hall of Hope project and created the design elements of the vignettes. A hospital photographer donated his time to shoot the portraits. Dineen interviewed families to collect the biographical information. A muralist painted vines to give the exhibit visual coherence.

The hospital unveiled the exhibit in December. It hangs in a hall between the postpartum unit and the NICU.

"We love watching families and NICU parents stop and read the stories," says Dineen. "We have had a powerful response from staff and patients on the beautiful project and how much it is appreciated."



Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.

Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.