Erica Granger sat in a room in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at University of Colorado Hospital, clutching a tiny body tight to her chest. The simple act would not have been possible 12 weeks earlier, when Granger, 31, gave birth to son Jace at just 25 weeks. He weighed less than 2 pounds, and it was two days before Granger could hold him.
“It was scary at first,” she said on this late December morning. “There were a lot of challenges; it was a rollercoaster ride.”
That ride was nearly over, thanks to the NICU, which has helped Granger, her husband, and their two-year-old daughter over the many peaks and valleys of premature delivery. Jace is 6 pounds, 9 ounces, and takes about 40 percent of his feedings by mouth. The Grangers, of Aurora, have taken a discharge class, the final preparations for bringing their newborn home. They will carry with them a tangible reminder that the NICU’s support for its patients extends beyond the walls of the hospital.
Shortly after Granger spoke, more than a dozen boys and girls representing the Regis Jesuit High School swimming team and their coach, Nick Frasersmith, walked into the reception area of the NICU carrying bags that held some 40 colorful handmade blankets for the NICU to give to families.
The team members had made all the blankets in a single day after practice, said Libby Barry, whose son, Colton, joined the effort. Her husband, James Barry, MD, is medical director of the NICU.
“This is the first year we’ve done it, but we’d love to make it annual,” Libby Barry said.
“It makes us feel awesome that the community cares about the NICU and donates their time to help us,” said Granger, who spoke briefly with television crews on hand to record the donation.
James Barry also introduced Isaac Dang, 17, and Michelle Cox, 18, of Brighton. Cox gave birth to identical twins Gabriella and Isabella at 34 weeks. Isaac, flashing a big smile, pulled out his cell phone to show the team members and film crews photos of his daughters. He said the preemies no longer have to wear CPAP masks to help them breathe, but they still weigh just over 4 pounds each and will be in the NICU awhile longer.
The blankets will help many more NICU babies and their families, but Frasersmith said he and his team are beneficiaries as well.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to give back to the community,” he said. “We know how tough this is this time of year.”