As long as I live, I will never forget March 27, 2012.
It was a day months (and for lots of folks, years) in the making – it was our Bryan Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Wall of Hope Unveiling Ceremony, where we celebrated the children and adults whose portraits would be serve as an expansion to the existing wall.
This wasn’t just any ceremony – at this ceremony, an infant’s cry or a toddler’s stream of chatter wasn”t met with shushes or sidelong glances. Those cries and those bits of chatter were like little victory songs, reminders that the smallest guests had made it and reminders of why we were all there.
At this ceremony, 16 families invited their nearest and dearest to share in their special moment, filling tables and filling the community room at Greenville Memorial Hospital with laughter. One of my favorite parts of the night was meeting some of these families (whose stories I’d read so often I felt like I already knew them), including a great uncle down from Chattanooga, Tenn., for the ceremony.
“I wouldn’ta missed it for the world,” he told me, beaming.
At this ceremony, we told stories. Medical Director of Neonatalogy Bryan Ohning shared how families didn’t just see the NICU wall covered in photos of former NICU patients (now happy, healthy kids) as a wall of hope -they saw it as a wall of expectation, a wall of things to come. Photographer Tiffiney Addis of Tiffiney Photography explained how her daughter Sadie Mae, born at 25 weeks in the NICU, started it all for her: her appreciation for the care at GHS Children’s Hospital, her understanding of the impact of the Wall of Hope, her passion to give back to families like hers.
At this ceremony, we saved the best for last: 16 families gathered around each of their portraits, covered in black cloth throughout the night, to unveil the newest additions to the NICU Wall of Hope.
At this ceremony, there were audible gasps and visible tears when those 16 gorgeous black-and-white portraits were revealed.
At this ceremony, there was hope.
If you’d like to see the kids and families featured in the NICU Wall of Hope project, click here.