Newborns and their families in the neonatal intensive care units in some North Texas hospitals are participating in Halloween festivities this year.
The COVID-19 pandemic will change the way holidays are celebrated this year, as traditions like trick or treating have been classified as high-risk activities for spreading the virus.
This year, up to 80 NICU babies at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas will celebrate their first Halloween with handmade costumes thanks to Parkland Child Life specialists who hosted a socially-distanced costume craft party on Oct. 22.
At Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Plano, Courtney Sanders, a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse, hand-knitted costumes for each NICU baby at the hospital. The newborns were outfitted in original crochet designs such as a frog prince, a lion, a mouse, fox twins and even a little hula dancer.
“It is already a challenging and unexpected life event to have a baby in the NICU, but to add the stress of a global pandemic on top of that makes it very difficult for our families,” Jennifer Porter, a NICU-certified Child Life Specialist at Parkland, said. “Having opportunities like these gives both our families and staff a sense of hope and something positive to enjoy, which I think is super important in a time like this.”
NICU staff members, volunteers, and parents helped to make costumes for every baby in the unit. The costumes included Candy Corn, Elvis Presley, Ninja Turtles, and an “inmate," Parkland staff said.
Photos: Parkland Hospital's NICU Babies Celebrate Halloween With Tiny Costumes
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La’Metrice Taylor, 26, a Dallas resident whose newborn triplets have been in Parkland’s NICU since the beginning of September, said she appreciates these events. Her babies, Triniti, Tristyn, and Trevor were dressed as three peas in a pod with the help of Parkland NICU nurses.
“Having one baby in the NICU is hard, but having three is a roller coaster,” Taylor said. “This was a great surprise to us and I absolutely loved their costumes. It really helped us take our mind off of what’s going on right now.”
The Child Life specialists at Parkland used supplies like felt, ribbon, glitter, and hot glue which were purchased with grants from the Pauline Graivier fund and the annual Child Life grant in place through the Parkland Women's Auxiliary.
Staff and volunteers assured parents who couldn’t attend the costume crafting party that their babies would still have a handmade costume, Parkland staff said.
“Our NICU staff is committed to caring for our smallest patients and helping families cope during these challenging times,” Regina Reynolds, MSN, RNC-NIC, NEA-B, Director of Nursing-Nursery Services at Parkland, said. “Our Halloween event is an example of the extra mile our staff is willing to take to bring a smile to their faces.”
According to Parkland Memorial Hospital, in the 2019 fiscal year, Parkland’s state-of-the-art Level III neonatal intensive care unit had 1,421 neonatal inpatient discharges, with an average daily census of 71.
Parkland's neonatal intensive care unit was the first to be opened in Dallas, and length of stay ranges from a few days to several months, depending on the infant’s condition. The 96 private NICU rooms include sofabeds that allow family members to stay overnight with their children, Parkland staff said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Parkland said it has provided prenatal care for more than 500 COVID-19 positive pregnant women.
To date, 252 women have delivered children, and of that number approximately 90% were asymptomatic or showed very mild symptoms, Parkland staff said.
According to Parkland Memorial Hospital, about 10% of the women had symptoms or worsening of disease requiring hospitalization and respiratory support, and only six infants have tested positive for COVID-19.