BOISE - For babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, every day can be a challenge. But at Saint Alphonsus, nurses and doctors have a special way of showing parents that big journeys begin with small steps.
Born at 30 weeks, twins Weston and Hayes had a rocky start. Their mom, Carly Flolo, had a prolapsed umbilical cord, a complication that occurs during delivery. She had to have an emergency C-section.
"They did an amazing job but it was kind of an experience we did not expect at all," Flolo said.
Weston and Hayes were immediately taken to the neonatal intensive care unit at Saint Alphonsus.
Babies born at or before 30 weeks can often spend up to two months in the NICU, a long, difficult time for baby and parents, which is why Saint Alphonsus began giving each NICU baby "journey beads" - special customized glass beads celebrating the milestones that bring families closer to taking their child home.
"So like this one is has two hearts on it," said Margery Johnson, a NICU nurse. "And it's for the first time they hold they baby; the two hearts are together."
It's a tangible way to track, record and document a baby's NICU stay. There are 20 beads in all: The first is a caterpillar for when the baby is admitted to the NICU. The last one, the butterfly, signifies graduating and going home.
"It engages the staff and the families together," said Hilerie King, a NICU respiratory therapist. "They see we are really pulling for them, and want them to succeed, and working with them trying to get their children home with their families as soon as possible."
Parents like Carly Flolo say it makes a difference during a stressful stay at the hospital.
"I just remember getting that crib bead and being like, it was just such a great feeling knowing that they can know manage their own temperature," Flolo said.
Each bead helps parents see beyond the wires and tubes. Baby Weston earned all his beads two weeks ago. Hayes has one more to go before he gets to go home.
"It's super easy to forget each little step," said the twins' dad, Eric Flolo. "You get hung up one half way through and you're like he's never going to get passed it. And you look back and see he's already got 10 beads, he'll get through it."