Few things are more heart-wrenching than seeing a baby fighting for its life. The NICU—Neonatal Intensive Care Unit—is the unit in hospitals where babies who are born prematurely or who have health conditions that need specialized treatment go for care. It's a special place, where hope and worry whirl together in a dizzying dance to the irregular rhythm of monitors beeping.
No one likes seeing a baby in the NICU, despite the fact that it gives vulnerable wee ones the best chance to survive and thrive. That's the goal of every NICU, to help babies get to the point where they're OK in the outside world, as well as the goal of every parent and healthcare worker who steps foot in the unit.
For parents, having a baby in the NICU is a harrowing experience, and having doctors and nurses who understand that fully can make all the difference. That's why a tweet about a NICU doctor's "new favorite hobby" being "hyping up" her NICU patients to their parents resonated with so many people.
Dr. Jennifer Sedler is a third-year pediatrics resident at Stanford Pediatrics Residency Program, according to TODAY Parents. She had just finished giving parents updates on their babies' progress when she felt an "overwhelming sense of positivity" that she wanted to share with others. So she sent out a tweet that said, "My new favorite hobby is hyping up my NICU babies to their parents. I list their accomplishments for the day, say how proud I am of them, or highlight how strong they were today. It’s such a joy to see/hear their parents beam with pride over their tiny fighters."
My new favorite hobby is hyping up my NICU babies to their parents. I list their accomplishments for the day, say how proud I am of them, or highlight how strong they were today. It\u2019s such a joy to see/hear their parents beam with pride over their tiny fighters.— Jennifer Sedler, MD (@Jennifer Sedler, MD) 1641090350
People loved her attitude and passion for her patients and their parents. Knowing that a doctor cares this much is a balm to the terrified hearts of parents who are praying their baby pulls through. When it's clear that parents and doctors are on the same team, both eagerly wanting the same outcome, it's easier for everyone to accept the outcome, whatever it is. And when you know that each day makes a difference, hearing positive, compassionate reports from caregivers can give parents some small measure of hope.
"It's not about sugarcoating it or about providing false hope, because talking about the difficult news and the hard times it's important, too," Sedler told TODAY Parents. "But there's both tangible and intangible victories in the NICU. There's the tangible things like weight gain and lab values. But then there's intangible things like, despite the procedure your baby had to have today they're being strong throughout it, or they're really fighting through this tough time."
People began sharing their stories in replies to her post, some sharing photos of their NICU babies and where they are now, with a flood of praise for the healthcare workers who worked with them.
My son was born at 32.5 weeks, and is now 4 months old today.\n\nThe exact thing you\u2019re talking about made the hardest of those 33 days easy, and made us so proud of him and his strides every day.\n\nThank you (and Texas Health HEB NICU) for what you do!pic.twitter.com/mQCDadyPgr— Brendon Morris (@Brendon Morris) 1641224996
The nurses in the NICU were our angels. As a mama with twins that were also in the NICU seeing your twins thrive makes my heart happy and am so excited to see my boys grow like yours have— Jess \ud83d\udd2e\u2728 (@Jess \ud83d\udd2e\u2728) 1641185076
My nearly 30 year old, born 1 lb, 10 oz spent his first two and a half months in the NICU. I couldn't have survived the worry without the compassion and dedication of his doctors and nurses.— Jan Jewell (@Jan Jewell) 1641187191
So many people shared how much they appreciated the care they got from NICU nurses and doctors and how important reports like Dr. Sedler's were to them.
"I absolutely never imagined that would be the response," Sedler told TODAY Parents. "To be totally transparent, I teared up quite a few times reading these stories over the last few days."
Sedler isn't planning on a career in the NICU—her chosen specialty is cardiology, but she had to do a NICU rotation as part of her program to ensure that residents are trained in pediatric care. But her time in the NICU has had an impact.
"There is just such a special energy about the NICU, and about new life and supporting these families that makes it a really special place to work," she said.
Sedler said she believes "positive energy really makes a difference" for patients in the NICU. "I think that going about our lives in that same way, and calling out those little victories, is what's going to help get us through the tough times."
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