Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day

Two years ago, my husband approached me with a new idea for Valentine’s Day. He said that since Valentine’s Day really is a commercial holiday, why don’t we skip going out to dinner and buying flowers and candy and bring some joy into the lives of others instead. I have to admit, at first I was skeptical. I thought, hmm…what a convenient way to get out of having to be romantic! But his idea was to go back to the NICU where our son spent the first ten weeks of his life and bring balloons to the babies and some candy and encouragement to the parents. I loved his idea and I think it is even more romantic that he has such a giving heart. So it has been a tradition in our family to visit the NICU every Valentine’s Day. We chose V-Day because it is close to Drew’s birthday and it also happens to be Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day.

This year we were able to expand our efforts and bring balloons and candy to every child in the hospital (thanks to help from The Children’s Heart Fund). We bought 100 red heart mylar balloons and attached a small box filled with chocolates and a note to each one. We couldn’t even fit them all into our mini-van! We also made cupcakes for the nurses and doctors and included thank you notes for all the hard work they do. Having a caring and compassionate nurse can make all the difference during a child’s hospitalization. We are so thankful for the many kind people we have run into during all of Drew’s hospital stays.

We got to deliver the balloons to each baby’s bedside in the NICU and we talked with some of the parents. Two mothers really touched me emotionally. One saw all the balloons when we first walked into the lobby and started crying. She said “it is just so nice that you guys are doing that. These are happy tears.” It really made me feel good to know that what we were doing didn’t just make us feel better, it made her feel better too. Another mom said thank you as I was handing her the balloon, and I told her that our son was here three years ago and we remember what it’s like to be in the hospital. She looked at me and said “So you get it” and I said, “yeah, I get it.” Even though it was something so small that she said, it brought tears to my eyes. I have this strong connection with a total stranger because of a shared, tragic experience.

Drew had fun visiting too. It is always nice to see the nurses who used to take care of him. They enjoy seeing how big he’s gotten and how well he’s doing. In each room we visited Drew kept saying “Want to see more babies.” I like the opportunity to teach him about helping others.Anyway, I just wanted to share our story. A lot of work went into putting all the gifts together and getting the cupcakes ready, but it was totally worth it in the end. Our family had an awesome Valentine’s Day and the lessons we learned and the love we shared are much better than any night out could have been.

Our family visiting the UCDMC NICU

Carter and Drew bring balloons to the babies

All the balloons, candy and cupcakes ready to go


Mother in Chief said...

I can't think of a better way to spend Valentine's (aka CHD Awareness Day). Did you have to get permission from the hospital ahead of time to go into the NICU?? I should try to arrange something like that here -- either at Stanford or UCSF. Both are pretty close.

Andrea said...

We called ahead to ask if we could come in, but I didn't think we'd actually be able to go to each bedside. Last year we brought balloons to each room but the nurses gave them to each patient.
It would be awesome if you could do something like that out there. I was hoping to include more hospitals and more kids each year.