Just before Halloween 2017, Pam Kunst started collecting tiny costumes. Whenever she found a mini Batman suit or an itty-bitty pirate’s hat, she would grab it for her collection.
Many of the costumes are made with pieces from multiple places: a jacket from one store, a hat from a consignment shop, a little toy from the grocery store, all lovingly put together by Pam to make each tiny outfit perfect.
The teeny costumes were made for the babies in the NHRMC Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where Pam works as a nurse. The goal of the project is to bring a little Halloween joy to the NICU families, who are facing a challenging time.
“We want them to have something to look forward to,” Pam said. “To remind them that after this, there will be holidays, and trick-or-treating, and fun times as a family.”
On Halloween, NICU parents are invited to bring their other children to trick-or-treat on the unit in costume. It gives families a chance to celebrate these little ones’ first Halloween together.
As much as the parents have loved the project, the NICU nurses may have enjoyed it even more. The excitement over the precious costumes is tangible the moment you step into the unit.
Nurses in the NICU at NHRMC already go above and beyond simply caring for their patients each day. Many of their patients spend weeks in the NICU gaining the strength they need to go home, and the nurses often form strong bonds with both their patients and the babies’ families.
They even hand-decorate adorable signs for each baby’s door with their names on them. Each one looks like a page out of a scrapbook.
“The signs, the Halloween costumes, these are ways to let our patients’ families know the we care about the non-medical things as well,” Pam said. “The NICU can feel relentless sometimes and we want them to know what we understand.”
Three of the NICU babies who are wearing Pam’s costumes for Halloween are Ray-Lynn, Jaxyn, and Arielle.
Ray-Lynn is around 4 weeks old. She was born by emergency C-section at 32 weeks and 1 day, weighing just 2 pounds. and 14 ounces. Her mom, Caitlyn, has been by her side each night for her entire stay in the NICU.
“They asked me if I would prefer to go to a hospital closer to home in South Carolina and I said no,” Caitlyn said. “This is a very good hospital. The nurses have been so good to her and to me.”
Arielle has been in the NICU for more than 170 days since her birth on May 9. When she was born at 25 weeks, Arielle weighed just 13.8 ounces.
She has been doing well and now weighs 7 pounds, 7 ounces. Her mom knows what a miracle her baby is, “Arielle is my greatest gift. I love her more than life itself.”
Jaxyn was born on October 14. His mom was planning to pack her bag for the hospital the following day, “I didn’t want to have him in our old house. I said I would not have a baby while we were living there. We were taking the last load to the car to move and that’s when my water broke.”
When Jaxyn was born, he was crying and breathing on his own so they were able to fulfill a lot of the wishes in his mother’s birth plan including 30-second delayed clamping, his father cutting the cord, and his mom getting to hold him.
“After he was taken to the NICU, I was just crying and crying because I was so happy that I got to hold him. Those 30 seconds meant so much to me.”
Jaxyn’s dad dressed up as Spiderman with him. It’s moments like this that lift everyone’s spirits in the NICU.
While the NICU journey can be challenging, the challenges are met each day by nurses like Pam. The care she took putting together each little piece of every tiny costume is reflected in the care each nurse gives to NHRMC’s littlest patients.
Pam’s project, more than a year in the making, will bring joy to countless NICU families this Halloween season.