GASTONIA, NC (WBTV) - Six months ago, neonatal intensive care unit nurse Melissa Jordan wanted to do something special for a preemie patient preparing to go home after spending two months in the NICU.
"I was over the moon excited for them, so I went home and started researching ways to make graduation hats," Jordan said.
Since then, the staff at 'The Birthplace' at CaroMont Regional Medical Center has hosted 14 'graduations' for babies, which are complete with adorable handmade hats.
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"They've gotten prettier over time. It's been a work in progress," Jordan said.
The idea behind the tiny hats is to help celebrate the end of what's often an emotionally taxing journey for both babies and their families. "To stay in here all the time is stressful for families. Some days are happy, some days are sad, it's pretty much an emotional roller coaster," Jordan said.
Families are not only treated to not only a 'graduation ceremony,' but local professional photographer Bella Baby Photography documents the occasion and provides pictures free of charge.
Jordan says families smile from ear to ear to see their little ones graduating, which is something Jordan finds just as rewarding for her and the other NICU nurses, as it is for the moms and dads.
"I loved working in the NICU before, just in general, but now, I feel like I've almost been given a purpose here," Jordan said.
The hats are small and take just a few hours to make, but their impact is much larger. The hats symbolize survival and the beginning of a healthy life for babies born too soon.