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When your infant resides in a neonatal intensive care unit, your mind has a tendency to race ahead to the future. Will my child survive? And if he does, will he have developmental delays and physical handicaps?
The new 2-story Women’s Board of Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit has a lot of features to help make a family’s stay more comfortable, including spacious private rooms. About the only thing it doesn’t have is a crystal ball for fortune telling.
The closest thing to clairvoyance here is the Wall of Hope, which offers parents who are going through a stressful and scary time a glimpse into the lives of other NICU residents who have graduated from the unit.
The Wall of Hope highlights the stories of 25 children in the 6th and 7th floor lobbies of Akron Children’s Kay Jewelers Pavilion.
As patient families enter the unit, they’re greeted by the faces of these NICU graduates who’ve faced everything from extreme prematurity and multiple births to birth defects such as spina bifida.
Many of the families of these NICU grads came together May 3 to celebrate each other and see the wall in person. They all received a framed copy of their children’s pictures and the satisfaction of knowing their stories will comfort many families for years to come.
“Thank you for being the folks who share their stories with our patient families,” NICU family coordinator Marybeth Fry told the 100-plus attendees. “Your stories will inspire other patient families when they need it most, because you are the epitome of strength and courage.”
Makita Gulley was excited to have her daughter Amina, now 17 months old, included in the Wall of Hope. Amina was born at 26 weeks gestation, weighing only 2 lbs., 1 oz.
During the times “Amina was throwing us for a few loops,” Gulley would set her sights on a bulletin board that hung in a central area in the former NICU. It was a place where all the NICU graduates’ pictures were posted, sent in by grateful parents who were anxious to show the nurses and doctors how great their kids were doing.
Some pictures showed young adults in mortar boards clutching diplomas. Others were of children riding 2-wheelers. All of them were comforting.
“It gives you a great sense of hope to see these kids and they are just like a regular, typical child,” said Gulley. “When you see how these babies grow and flourish, thanks to the efforts of all these great doctors and nurses, you realize it takes a village to raise a child. You realize there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The Wall of Hope is a bigger and better forum than the old crowded bulletin board. It contains more information and details for hungry parents to devour at a time when they need to be sustained.
Here, parents facing a new diagnosis can find a mentor – someone who understands exactly their current situation.
Best of all, the Wall of Hope offers insight into what the future may hold. Some of the participants boast black belts in karate. Others like to belt out “Frozen” songs at the top of their lungs.
By sharing their journeys, all of them offer hope and inspiration.
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As part of our year-long anniversary celebration, we’re telling the story of Akron Children’s through the eyes of past and present employees, doctors, donors, volunteers and patient families. We encourage you to share your own memories and stories about us.