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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The 15th annual Swim for Melissa and Miracle Bash are Saturday, August 22nd. Because of COVID-19, the events will be different this year. The virus has also changed the way the unit operates where those tiny little miracles are cared for when they come into the world early.

John Pierce Worthington was born May 18th. He arrived three and a half months early at 26 weeks. “He was a little eager to get into the world, so he just decided to come on in and he’s been giving us a fight since then,” his mom Ashley said with a laugh.

JP, as his family calls him, weighed two pounds, seven ounces. Like so many preemies, he had some health problems. But he’s growing and improving each day. Because of COVID-19, only one parent is allowed in the unit to see their baby at a time.

“I usually go in the morning for most of the day and his dad will go in when he gets off of work and kinda hang out there,” Ashley said. The virus is making a difficult journey even tougher. “The days are emotionally hard you know, not having a parent, your significant other there with you to go through all the hardships and like the struggles through the NICU,” Ashley added.

Nicole Davidson is the Director of the Regional NICU at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children. “As a parent myself, I can’t imagine what that would be like, having a child in here during these times,” Nicole said. Her daughter was a NICU baby when she was born.

Nicole and her staff are doing what they can to be supporting during this time. “At times we do allow them to see the baby for the first visit together when they’re going to take mom to her room and she’s still in the hospital,” she said, “But other than that, they don’t get to see the baby together until they go home.”

“That’s the hardest part, is having a child during a pandemic and not being able to share those special moments,” Ashley said. They’re moments that last a lifetime. “They’re not able to see that first feeding. They’re not able to see that first bath,” Nicole added, “They’re not able to see the first time that mom and dad get to hold this baby which may even be three or four weeks after the baby’s been born.”

That’s why Amy George and her husband Chris, who established the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund after their daughter died shortly after being born, are using money raised from swim and miracle bash this year to buy cameras for the NICU. “We’re going to be able to connect families with their babies in a way that we have not been able to yet,” Amy said.

Right now, families are sharing those special moments with their cell phones. “Trying to hold it while you’re doing other things, it’s hard,” Ashley said, “My boys want to see JP.” So do grandparents. “We call them probably a couple of times a week just to let them see JP while we’re there,” Ashleigh added.

The goal is to buy 55 NICVIEW cameras, one for each bed in the unit. “The birth of a child a very important time for a family and in most cases, it’s a very emotional time,” Nicole said, “It’s an exciting time for families.”

The secure video stream will allow parents and family to connect a new way, now, and down the road. “I think we’ll look back on this year and go, Oh, that was the COVID year and we had to do everything different and none of it looked the same, but we provided something in the middle of a pandemic that’s going to connect people with their babies,” Amy said, “And I just can’t think of anything better.”

Click on these links to register for Swim for Melissa, buy tickets to Miracle Bash or donate to the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund.