Nora Franks wears a toque knit by her grandmother, Eileen. Inspired by the quilts given to parents as gifts by maternity ward staff, Eileen knit a dozen of these adorable toques for babies at St. Paul’s.

Grateful grandmother knits toques for NICU newborns

December 20th, 2016

Baby quilt given to parents by mat ward staff inspires gift in return

At St. Paul’s, about ten percent of newborns spend time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), a nursery for babies, many of whom are born premature, who need special care following birth.

Some babies may spend just a few hours in the NICU; some may spend days, weeks or even months. When babies recover to the point where they are able to leave the NICU, it’s a special day for parents.

There’s a tradition at St. Paul’s where babies leaving the NICU are wrapped in a quilt that is given as a gift by the maternity department staff.

When Elanor Franks’ daughter Nora was able to leave the NICU after having spent four weeks there, Elanor’s mother Eileen was moved to learn of the baby quilt tradition and wanted to give a gift in return.

As the nurses on the mat ward had often complimented Eileen on the toques she had knit for her granddaughter, Eileen had her idea!

Eileen then knit a dozen toques that could be worn by babies during their stay in the NICU and gave them to Elanor to bring to St. Paul’s. Elanor, however, was not able to deliver her mother’s gift right away.

In fact, two years went by.

 A difficult return

When Nora was born on May 24, 2014, it was the beginning of a difficult time for Elanor and her husband, Aaron. Nora had been born at 28 weeks, nearly three months premature. Not only did this mean the beginning of a lengthy struggle for their daughter, but Nora had been a twin and her brother had not survived.

“Not only was our daughter in Intensive Care,” says Elanor today, “we were also grieving the loss of our son. It was a very difficult time.”

Elanor says that while it was always her intention to bring the toques in, a number of issues, including PTSD, made it difficult for her to return to St. Paul’s.

In the fall of 2016, however, Elanor learned that the St. Paul’s maternity department hosts an annual World Prematurity Day event in November to raise awareness of preterm birth and the concerns of preterm babies and their families.

“When I was told about the prematurity day event at St. Paul’s,” says Elanor, ”and when I learned a bit about what the event was about, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to take Nora and her sister and finally bring in our toques.”

The toques were warmly and gratefully received by the maternity team.

Busy today raising her two daughters, Elanor is grateful to the maternity team at St. Paul’s.

“The care we received was very special,” she says. “It’s a smaller team with the NICU, too, and we felt we really got to know Nora’s caregivers. It meant a lot.”

The Maternity Centre at St. Paul’s is a “Level 3” maternity ward, a designation that means the ward supports some of the most  complex and high risk pregnancies. The ward is also home to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for those babies and newborns whose first moments of life may be a struggle.

Friends of St. Paul’s are encouraged to make a gift today to support greatest needs at St. Paul’s, including our Maternity Centre and the  devoted staff who provide such excellence in care.


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