BOISE - Families can spend long, agonizing months in the NICU at hospitals, some not knowing what obstacle is coming next.
To celebrate World Prematurity Day, Kelsey Nixon - a celebrity chef who hosts a show called "Kelsey's Essentials" on the Cooking Channel - made dinner and dessert for those families at Saint Alphonsus in Boise.
Every year since her son Oliver was born four years ago, this day has a much deeper meaning for Nixon.
While Nixon's sons were in the NICU she says she remembers skipping meals without realizing it, or sitting on the subway to the NICU in New York eating whatever was in her purse.
"I do know what it feels like to be there," said Nixon. "I'm a NICU mom," said Nixon. "I've had not one but two babies in the NICU before."
Her first son, Oliver, was born at 28 weeks, weighing just over 2 pounds. The NICU was his home for two and a half months.
"We've seen both the positive outcome from the NICU," said Nixon.
Oliver is now 4 years old and thriving, Nixon says.
"But then we've also had the heartbreak of leaving the NICU with empty arms before," said Nixon.
Kelsey's second son, Leo, was born at just 25 weeks weighing an ounce shy of 1 pound.
"I lost a little boy that didn't make it out of the NICU," said Nixon. "I mean there are no words to accurately describe the feeling of walking out of the hospital with empty arms. It's just heart wrenching and heartbreaking."
Now, she's turning tragedy into triumph, using her cooking skills to bring comfort to NICU families to celebrate World Prematurity Day and to honor Leo.
"It's hard to take care of yourself when you're a NICU parent because you're so consumed with the health of your child," said Nixon. "So a good meal can really go a long way for a parent who has a baby in the NICU."
Nixon is feeding families, in hopes of bringing joy to them on a difficult journey.
"At times you're so consumed by it that you think I am never going to get on the other side of this," said Nixon. "If I can hopefully be almost a ray of hope for these families to think I will get there, one day and I will be on the other side of this, I hope that's what I can do."
As Kelsey is trying to be the light for these families, she has some light of her own. Last year, her sister-in-law offered to carry a baby for her. That baby girl will be born on Monday.
Nixon says she couldn't fully celebrate with this new baby without honoring the life of Leo and spreading his message.
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