For some families, taking the kids to see Santa Claus is a holiday tradition. For parents of babies in the NICU, making this trip is impossible. That’s why one hospital brought Santa to them.
WellStar Atlanta Medical Center held two Santa Claus events for its NICU babies and their parents. The man in red visited the little warriors on both Dec. 4 and Dec. 10. On those two days, the hospital hosted 19 family photos. One of those families was Rachel Speer’s.
Speer told The Huffington Post that a placental abruption forced her to have an emergency C-section on Oct. 27. Her twin girls entered the NICU on the same day after being born at a little more than 29 weeks gestation.
“The girls were strong and healthy when they were born, both breathing on their own and crying, but they were still so small and needed to be in the NICU for many weeks until they were old enough and strong enough to come home,” Speer said.
Speer, who also has a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, said seeing her twins get to take photos with Santa was “great.”
“Santa was incredibly sweet and gentle with our girls, and we loved the event,” she said.
One of her twins came home a few days ago, but Speer still spends a lot of time in the NICU waiting to see when her other daughter will get the OK to head home. She told HuffPost that the nurses and the rest of the NICU staff “treat you like family.”
“They answered all of our questions, and I said on multiple occasions that NICU nurses have the patience of a saint because of how many we questions we asked over and over again,” she said.
Speer also said Heidi Squires, a March of Dimes employee who works as the NICU family support program coordinator at the hospital, has been “amazing.” Squires has been in the position for eight years, and this is the second year she has organized Santa’s visit to the NICU babies. With events like this, Squires and her team set out to give NICU families hope and reassurance.
“The mission is to provide comfort and support to families who are in crisis,” she said. “It’s just one of the many things we do to support our families and normalize their experience in the NICU.”
With a little help from Santa, of course.
See more photos from the hospital’s holiday photo ops below.