Graduations mark a huge milestone in life, but sometimes they are not always for students.
NICU babies at CaroMont Regional Medical Center in North Carolina are receiving their own ceremonies to mark their discharge from the hospital.
Melissa Jordan, a 28-year-old neonatal nurse at the hospital, came up with the idea when one of the babies in the unit was ready to go home after a 62-day stay.
Baby Wyatt was born at just 29 weeks.
“The family brought in a onesie that read “NICU Grad” a day before [Wyatt’s] discharge. He was going home and I wanted to make it special for them because it had been a long time,” Jordan told InsideEdition.com.
When Jordan went home that night, she made a graduation hat out of construction paper for Wyatt and brought it to his “ceremony” the next day.
Jordan called Bella Baby Photography to help with the moment, and photographer Amanda Meixsell agreed to do the shoot for free.
“I gathered up all the staff and we went in singing and dancing to “Graduation” by Vitamin C. We gave him the graduation hat while his pictures were being taken,” Jordan said.
That was six months ago, and now the unit has decided to give every baby born at least six weeks premature a graduation when it’s their time to go home.
“The hats have advanced and now I make them out of foam paper," Jordan said. "They’ve gotten prettier."
Each hat says “NICU GRAD,” and indicates the number of days the baby was in the unit, along with the message, "A whole life in front of me."
Bella Baby Photography continues to give each parent the photos, free of charge.
"It’s been great meeting the different families and being able to be a part of the family’s growth story," Meixsell told InsideEdition.com
The hospital hangs photos of the babies who’ve graduated to give hope to parents whose babies are still in the unit. So far, the NICU has had 14 graduates, including three sets of twins.
“It’s overwhelming," Jordan said. "You’re happy, but you’re sad at the same time because you get so close to the babies and families. It’s a huge deal for the babies to be able to go home. It’s exciting to be able to give them this graduation hat.”
Jordan says that since she came up with the idea, she feels it has given her a purpose.
“I always wanted to be in the NICU and it’s not like a job you can get fresh out of school as a nurse, but since I started the graduations, I feel like I have a higher purpose for why I am here,” she said.