Ten week old Sienna is first to graduate with BA(by) honours

Although she is too little to understand what the fuss is all about, 10 week old Sienna Hartill is the first intensive care baby at Southend University Hospital to have a very special going home graduation ceremony – complete with mini-graduation cap.

Graduation ceremonies on Neonatal Intensive Care Units are popular in America, so the Neonatal Unit at Southend wanted to bring this idea to the UK. It was the idea of Neonatal Practice Educator, Vicky Thompson.

She said: “The nursing staff build relationships with the babies and their parents and we wanted to find a way to celebrate the difficult and long journey that they have been through.

“Leaving the neonatal unit after a long period of time is both an exciting and apprehensive time for the parents. This is our way of acknowledging that transition and the impact the families have made on everyone on the unit.”

Sienna’s mum and dad, Gemma Elliott and Craig Hartill – both from Hadleigh – were thrilled to be taking Sienna home, and to be the first recipients of this special award. Members of the Neonatal Unit, including nurses and consultants, flanked the threesome and gave them a round of applause as they left.

Craig said: “It was such an important moment for us as a family, made even more special by everyone who helped get us here, and applauded us as we left the Unit. It’s been like our second home, and we can’t thank everyone enough for all they have done to get us to this moment of being able to take Sienna home.

“It’s been a real honour for her to be the first premature baby graduating from Southend, and this is just the first of many celebrations to come for Sienna.”

All babies born before 34 weeks gestation, with a stay of two weeks or more, will join the neonatal unit’s graduation wall of fame. Like Sienna, they will also take home a graduation cap signed by all of the nurses to remember their big day.

For the graduation photo, babies also get to wear a cute but snazzy miniature graduation cap, which was created by Clare Duggan, from Sew a Little Happiness in Rochford. She kindly donated her time and materials to make the cap, which is wipeable and meets infection control standards, as well as being adjustable to fit tiny graduates.

The Polaroid camera and film was paid for by money raised by neonatal nursing staff completing in the Nuclear Race earlier this year. Here’s to the class of 2019!

Mick Ferris

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