Colorful Baby Keepsake Doubles as Medical Diary

Posted on Jan 8, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Pediatric Care, People, Quality, Scroll Images

“Tiny Victories of Life” beads track critically ill and premature infants’ medical journeys

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – At Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) Van Ness Campus hospital, Child Life Specialists help parents mark their critically ill or premature newborns’ milestones using colorful beads and charms with the “Tiny Victories of Life” program.

Just ask new mom Amanda Bates about her son Asher’s Tiny Victories strand of beads.

“Each bead that has a figure represents an achievement of that day,” says Bates, while holding a string with nearly 40 beads.

Critically ill and premature babies at CPMC spend their first weeks or months fighting to achieve crucial health markers. Child Life Specialists use the aptly-named “Tiny Victories of Life” program as visual storytelling to document and celebrate each baby’s remarkable journey.

Amanda Bates’ son Asher, who arrived six weeks early, is steadily hitting important milestones that babies in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) are required to reach before discharge.

The program was started in 2016 by hospital Child Life director, Lori Denault, who modeled it after “Beads of Courage,” a similar national initiative that tracks patient progress using beads. (Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento participates in Beads of Courage.)

Blue beads represent individual days, while special charms represent significant or personally meaningful achievements such as a duck charm for baby’s first bath or a music note each time baby receives music therapy. Asher’s Tiny Victories strand includes a red bead to mark meeting Santa Claus because he spent his first Christmas in the hospital.

The Tiny Victories of Life program encourages parents to forge a strong bond with their newborns—which can be a challenge when a baby is very ill and must remain in the hospital for a long period of time after birth. Beads are added to the strands each week during one-on-one family sessions or at a NICU parent group meeting.

Bates Family
Kyle and Amanda Bates pose with baby Asher at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) Van Ness Campus hospital.

CPMC Child Life Specialist Shannon Banahan says, “Tiny Victories is a way for parents to look forward to the progress their baby is making. Families can get overwhelmed in thinking about the long and seemingly never-ending days in the NICU. But once they look back on their beads and see how far their baby has come, it feels like there’s an end in sight and makes them hopeful and proud.”

On Asher’s discharge day, he received the final bead in his strand—the butterfly bead, which signifies he’s ready to spread his wings.

“Receiving the butterfly bead is always emotional for parents, both because they are leaving this community of nurses and new parent friends and also because they are finally being able to start this new chapter of life at home with baby,” says Banahan.

Posted by on Jan 8, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Pediatric Care, People, Quality, Scroll Images | Comments Off on Colorful Baby Keepsake Doubles as Medical Diary