Twenty-three families with babies in NICU treated to holiday outing to Opryland Hotel
A time for holiday cheer and a break from the hospitalDecember 14, 2018
Jennifer and Layne Rogers and seven of their children enjoyed the decorations at the hotel.
It’s hard to have a baby in intensive care any time, but holidays may be the hardest.
But for a group of families with babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, some special elves among the NICU staff were able to sprinkle some holiday cheer.
On Dec. 10, 23 families enjoyed the Christmas lights at Gaylord Opryland Hotel, the exhibit ICE! featuring the Dr. Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas and dinner at the hotel — all courtesy of a grant from the Junior League of Nashville.
“This is such a wonderful opportunity. When I told them that we were going they screamed and clapped and were so excited. This is really, really special, especially during our hospital stay.”
“Having a baby in the NICU can be extremely difficult for families, especially with other children at home,” said Stephanie Abbu, DNP, RN, CNML, Clinical Business Coordinator for Neonatal Services at Children’s Hospital.
“There is a struggle for parents to be with their NICU baby at the hospital and to be with their other children at home. This can cause feelings of guilt and make a stressful situation even more stressful. The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and celebration but a NICU stay can make families miss get-togethers and remind parents of what they are missing since they cannot participate in holiday activities in the same way as in years past,” she said.
Abbu, along with Marlee Crankshaw R.N., DNP, CNML, director Neonatal Services at Children’s Hospital, submitted a grant proposal to the Junior League of Nashville. The group received the funding, called a Hamilton Grant, in November and began brainstorming on how best to provide a holiday outing for the families.
The funding allowed the group to charter a bus to see the more than three million Christmas lights on the resort property as well as entry into the indoor wonderland featuring scenes created from two million pounds of ice as well as two-story high ice slides.
When Jennifer Rogers, mom to newborn Noah, was told about the outing, she didn’t hesitate to RSVP “yes” for her family. The mom of 10 knew her children would be overjoyed to attend. She and her husband Layne escorted seven of their children, ranging in ages from 2 to 15 years old, on the holiday adventure.
“It has really been hard for me to be away from my other children for so long,” said Rogers. “They come up here to visit for a little bit and I’ve had a chance to go home for short periods, but it’s not the same.
“This is such a wonderful opportunity. When I told them that we were going they screamed and clapped and were so excited. With a family of our size, we’ve wanted to go for years but just couldn’t afford it. This is really, really special, especially during our hospital stay.”
Jennifer and Layne’s son Noah, who was born six weeks premature, is expected to stay in the NICU into early 2019. His original birthdate was Jan. 2.
Another family attending the outing, Paul and Brittni Jack, hope their baby girl, Kinsey Rose, will be home for Christmas.
Kinsey was born with a rare brain disorder called holoprosencephaly, an abnormality of brain development in which the brain doesn’t properly divide into the right and left hemispheres.
The chance to attend a fun, family event with their son Madden, 4, was much needed, Paul Jack said. “This outing is a chance for us to take a breath and we couldn’t be more thankful.
“This hospital has been great. The care here is the best ever. There are mini-miracles happening here every day. And the fact that the staff took the time to arrange this for the families — it’s the little things that can make such a big difference.”
“We hope these families will get to make some beautiful memories and that this outing will bring them joy.”
Abbu said she hoped that the lights and decorations would be able to provide an atmosphere that can be an escape from the lights, wires, medical equipment of a NICU hospital room.
“We hope these families will get to make some beautiful memories and that this outing will bring them joy,” said Abbu. “I had a mom say to me, ‘Telling me that I can go on this night out was my only piece of good news today. Today has been a tough day.’
“This is why we made such an effort to make this happen for our families,” Abbu said.
Jennifer Rogers echoed that sentiment.
“It’s amazing that the staff took the time to think of something just for us, as patients. They realize how hard it is for us to get out and participate in activities like this. It really means a lot.
“I’m so excited to get the chance to spend time with my other children, especially doing something they have wanted to do for so long. It might be small to others, but this is a big deal to us.”