— -- These tiny “gifts” were the best presents their parents could possibly receive this holiday season.
Newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit at Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City were decked out in festive knit hats and wrapped snuggly in large, pretty bows.
For Katilyn and Eric Bunch, the spirited costumes for their twin girls made Christmas more merry and bright despite their all having to spend it at the hospital.
“Being a NICU parent is really tough,” Kaitlyn told ABC News. “We didn’t quite understand how tough it would be until we got here. It’s a little isolating and it’s sad. And you’re concerned about the health of your baby … But we know this is the absolute best place for them, and they’re being so well cared for.”
The holiday makeover for the babies “was a really good example of what the hospital and March of Dimes are doing to make us parents feel normal when we have kids in the hospital at Christmas," Bunch said. "It makes us feel like we’re part of a community and not like we’re in this on our own.”
She said it was especially meaningful that the professional photographers and the Santa at the event had all had newborns in the hospital's intensive care unit. "They're all part of this extended family here," she said.
Santa also helped to spread holiday cheer by delivering packages to the parents. Each received a keepsake “'Twas the Night Before Christmas” card with their baby’s footprint used to illustrate a mouse; a hand-crocheted Santa bag filled with candy; hand-crocheted Santa hats or caps with a bow; and a holiday book for the family to enjoy and read together.
“The holidays can be an especially emotional time for families in the NICU,” Michelle Manuel, the hospital’s director of media relations, wrote to ABC News. “Babies here are usually born premature or sick and they may spend weeks or months growing healthy enough to go home. So providing these special families with an opportunity to celebrate the holidays in a memorable way allows them a sense of normalcy, and an opportunity to celebrate their babies’ first milestones -- even in the hospital -- which is what every family wants to do!”
The hospital celebrated Hanukkah and Kwanzaa too, giving families who observe either of those holidays appropriately-themed presents.
Each care package was lovingly made by the hospital’s nurses and staff, along with the March of Dimes in Kansas City, who also had volunteers photographing the celebration.