DALLAS — The COVID-19 pandemic will change the way holidays are celebrated this year.
Trick or treating, for example, has been classified as a high-risk activity for spreading the virus.
However, there are several safe alternative ways to participate in Halloween. And staff at Parkland Memorial Hospital is making sure that even the tiniest newborns and their families in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) get in on the fun.
Up to 80 NICU babies at Parkland will celebrate their first Halloween with handmade costumes thanks to Parkland Child Life specialists who hosted a socially distanced costume craft party on Oct. 22.
“It is already a challenging and unexpected life event to have a baby in the NICU, but to add the stress of a global pandemic on top of that makes it very difficult for our families,” said Jennifer Porter, a NICU-certified Child Life specialist.
“Having opportunities like these gives both our families and staff a sense of hope and something positive to enjoy, which I think is super important in a time like this.”
NICU staff members, volunteers and parents helped create a costume for every baby in the unit.
The adorable costumes included Candy Corn, Elvis Presley, Ninja Turtles, and an “inmate.”
La’Metrice Taylor, 26, a Dallas resident whose newborn triplets have been in Parkland’s NICU since the beginning of September, said she appreciates events like these.
Her babies, Triniti, Tristyn, and Trevor were dressed as three peas in a pod with the help of Parkland NICU nurses.
“Having one baby in the NICU is hard, but having three is a roller coaster,” said Taylor. “This was a great surprise to us and I absolutely loved their costumes. It really helped us take our mind off of what’s going on right now.”
The Child Life specialists at Parkland gathered supplies like felt, ribbon, glitter and hot glue which were purchased with grants from the Pauline Graivier fund and the annual Child Life grant in place through the Parkland Women’s Auxiliary.
Parents who couldn’t attend the costume crafting party were assured their baby would still have a handmade costume, courtesy of staff and volunteers who took part.
“Our NICU staff is committed to caring for our smallest patients and helping families cope during these challenging times,” said Regina Reynolds, MSN, RNC-NIC, NEA-B, Director of Nursing-Nursery Services at Parkland. “Our Halloween event is an example of the extra mile our staff is willing to take to bring a smile to their faces.”
In FY 2019, Parkland’s state-of-the-art Level III neonatal intensive care unit had 1,421 neonatal inpatient discharges, with an average daily census of 71. Length of stay ranges from a few days to several months, depending on the infant’s condition. The 96 private NICU rooms include sofabeds that allow family members to stay overnight with their little ones. Parkland opened the first neonatal intensive care unit in Dallas in 1973.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Parkland has provided prenatal care for more than 500 COVID-19 positive pregnant women.
To date, 252 have delivered and of that number approximately 90% were asymptomatic or showed very mild symptoms. About 10% had symptoms or worsening of disease requiring hospitalization and respiratory support. Only six infants have tested COVID-19 positive.