By Sue Moore
A new “then and now” photo exhibit at Bronson Children’s Hospital is designed to bring hope to families with babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The Pictures of Hope display features photos of former Neonatal Intensive Care Unit patients who spent days, weeks or months in the NICU. The pictures show that the former patients have now grown into healthy toddlers, teens and adults. Some of the babies were so small their parents were able to fit a wedding band around their tiny arms.
Photographer Linda Hoard from Vicksburg, donated her time and services to capture the beautiful images. The exhibit is funded through the Bronson Health Foundation. An online photo album along with each patient story was also created. Hoard was recruited by Ruth Ritzema, a staff member of Parent to Parent, who coordinated the project for the 18 families who came to Hoard’s home to be photographed. “It was an honor to work with all the families. We started in April 2016 and the grand opening of the display was in September. Each of the families brought a photo taken when their child was in the NICU. My job was to pose the family or individual holding their very own baby picture. The goal is to give hope to future parents of premature babies while in the NICU care,” Hoard said.
Patients and families pictured in the photos each had the opportunity to unveil their own pictures during a reception in Bronson’s North Pavilion. George Kudwa, just three pounds when he was born, is now 26 years old. “I’m very lucky and blessed to be here today,” Kudwa said. “That’s what these photos remind me of.”
Julia Cretsinger, who had three babies who each spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit, became teary-eyed when she saw the photos. “It makes me feel good to be part of it, so there is hope for other families,” Cretsinger said. Wendy Finsterwald-Watts, manager of nursing in the NICU, said the photos are installed in the halls of the NICU. “It will be very meaningful to families of current and future patients. We hope it will be encouraging for them to see these former patients smiling and having fun,” she said.