Each One a Gift, 2010
Yesterday morning, as part of a project I’m working on, I visited the neonatal intensive care units at our local children’s hospital.
Spread across a half dozen or so separate and carefully isolated areas, sixty-three tiny babies are struggling to survive. Sometimes the hospital has to find room for more. Most were born prematurely. They’re placed in high tech cribs, many covered by home made quilts that minimize stimulation. The lights are kept low here. Monitors and lines and machines that hiss and hum and beep are everywhere. The average stay is thirty days. A few of these infants won’t make it. Twins are apparently especially vulnerable. Nurses or doctors are never more than a few steps away.
Parents from all walks of life are one when it comes to being here, there being little more than a chair and a curtain, and sometimes not even that, separating one crib from the next. But parents seem to like having each other close by to share moments of progress and to have someone to lean on in moments of crisis.
Sixty-three fragile infants. Each breath a gift. I tell you, there’s nothing like a visit to a place like this to remind you just how inconsequential any problems you think you might have really are.
On my way out, I heard a loud cry from one of the tiny infants, a child barely bigger than my hand. The nurses all turned around and smiled. One exclaimed, “That’s the kind of lungs we like to hear around here!”