Put aside the Halloween costumes you’re planning on wearing, folks. The babies at Loyola Medicine’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) just won all the costume contests! These tiny NICU patients in Illinois enjoyed some real Halloween spirit, thanks to an annual costume contest put on by their nurses.
For more than 30 years, babies in Loyola Medicine’s NICU have donned Halloween costumes designed by the dedicated nurses that show off a wide array of different personalities and creativity throughout the unit.
There are costumes featuring favorite Disney characters like Snow White …
… Beanie Babies …
… and of course, costumes that show off the strength of these incredible babies, just like Popeye with his bowl of spinach …
… or Superman!
Of course, these inspired costumes also display incredible spirit.
Abby Lonergan, 60, a Loyola nurse who has worked in the NICU since 1987 notes that the annual Halloween costume tradition started long before her employment at the hospital as a way to bring a smile to the families who have babies in the NICU. Lonergan, who oversees the costume contest, explains that the NICU can be a tough place for families, and the annual Halloween costume contest helps create a happy environment that celebrates some of the babies’ personalities as well.
“It’s just a fun thing to do,” she says.
Every year, the NICU staff obtains permission from the parents of their precious patients to deck them out in their Halloween gear. In fact, costume creation becomes a real group effort. Because each nurse in the Level III Loyola NICU cares for one primary baby at a time during their shifts, that nurse chooses the baby’s costume and is in charge of seeing that vision come to life. Most of the costumes are handmade by the nurses on their own time at home, with all the supplies purchased by them as well.
But this year, other staff, including a floor doctor and dietary assistant joined in on the fun as well. Each costume is handmade and crafted to accommodate any special equipment and conditions the babies might have, such as IV lines and respiratory tubing.
“We are proud to say that we are all making these by hand,” Lonergan adds. “It’s a group effort.”
The night shift nurses set up the costume the night before Halloween, so they can be unveiled to the parents on Halloween morning. You better believe the parents are always surprised with the creative results.
“[The parents] are just thrilled … sometimes it makes me cry because I can see the smiles on their faces,” she says.
Some of the most memorable costumes that Lonergan remembers include a scuba diver and one of her own personal creations, Michael Jackson.
This costume-making event has turned into a friendly competition among the staff to see who can come up with the most creative ideas. After the costumes are unveiled, NICU personnel vote on which costume is “Most Adorable,” with first, second, and third place prizes available. Both the nurse and the baby receive prizes of donated gift cards for the nurses and simple toys or books for the babies.
This year, there are 27 babies in the NICU participating in costume contest. So which baby costume is thought to be taking the lead? Lonergan’s lips are sealed as to who she thinks will take first place this year.
“There’s a lot in the running,” she says with a laugh.
I guess we will just have to wait and see! Good luck to the staff tasked with choosing the “Most Adorable” costume out of all these those adorable choices!More On