By Shawn Chitnis
AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Families forced to spend the holidays at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Colorado Hospital receive gifts year after year from UCHealth employees and the community. They help make their stay more enjoyable while these families are in the hospital, waiting to go home.
“It’s definitely not easy,” said Brittiney Lujan, a mother of a baby boy in the NICU. “Everyone’s dream is like have baby and go home right away, and so you’re here, coming here every day.”
Lujan was diagnosed with preeclampsia for the second time before delivering her son Jeremy. It’s a condition related to high blood pressure and required a C-section in November. Four years ago, she had the same diagnosis with her daughter, Natalee.
“It’s not ideal, you know, just wanting to be home,” she said. “Being back at that regular routine, and then having an older kid, it’s not easy.”
The family won’t be ready to go home until January 2019, closer to their son’s original due date, so they will spend the holidays at the hospital. Staff at UCHealth and other community members saw the need to help these parents unable to enjoy Christmas and get through several weeks or months at the NICU.
“I’m sure it helps them out and makes them feel good to have something for the baby,” said Phyllis Hoskins, an administrative assistant in the facilities department at the hospital. “I just like helping people out, I think it’s in my nature.”
For 16 years she has lead the effort to collect clothing, gifts, and blankets for the families at the NICU. She will be retiring after 34 years but still plans to help with this project. She will even volunteer for the hospital and cuddles with babies during retirement.
“It makes you feel good maybe more than the others sometimes,” she said. “Since my babies are over 40 years old, it’s kind of fun seeing all the new stuff out there that I never had.”
The Lujan family had some special guests on Wednesday while in the NICU. Her mother is there with her each day and her husband visits when he is not working, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus were there to see families that day. The same team behind the duo in red have returned each holiday season to the hospital for six years. The visit comes as Jeremy continues to improve and gets better each day.
“He’s doing good, he gains weight like crazy so that’s a plus,” said Lujan.
She has done what she can to help with their holiday experience at the hospital. Decorations like a small tree give the family a sense of home in the corner of the NICU they spend day after day with Jeremy. But she says besides journaling about the experience, she imagines what Christmas will be like in 2019.
“Something definitely to look forward to,” said Lujan. “Just one thing you got to do, think of the time when you will be home.”