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 Vera Phillips dons a knit Santa Claus outfit for a holiday photoshoot at the Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, neonatal intensive care unit Dec. 11. She was born Oct. 11 at 24 weeks.

Vera Phillips dons a knit Santa Claus outfit for a holiday photoshoot at the Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, neonatal intensive care unit Dec. 11. She was born Oct. 11 at 24 weeks.

Photo by Bella Baby Photography, provided by Maryanne MacLeod


Beaumont NICU babies star in holiday photoshoot

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published December 23, 2019

 Harmony Grace Tenille wears a Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer outfit. She was born Sept. 17 at 29 weeks.

Harmony Grace Tenille wears a Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer outfit. She was born Sept. 17 at 29 weeks.

Photo by Bella Baby Photography, provided by Maryanne MacLeod

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ROYAL OAK — While no parent anticipates a stint in a neonatal intensive care unit, modern medicine and lifesaving technology have ensured that countless infants received the care they needed to go home.

In an effort to brighten the spirits of families whose babies’ first Christmas likely will be spent in the hospital, staff at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, staged a holiday photoshoot in which approximately 30 infants donned knit outfits ranging from Santa Claus to reindeer to snowmen.

The post went viral on social media.

Mara Sipols, a clinical nurse who manages the NICU, said the event surpassed the staff’s expectations. She said the holiday photoshoot was the brainchild of Senior Marketing Coordinator Brandi Zielke, whose twins spent time in the NICU.

“I think the photoshoot gave some sense of normalcy, and I think that’s so important. This is a unique environment,” Sipols said. “I think this was the first photoshoot for all of these parents ever.”

She said the whole unit was abuzz with positivity the evening of the photoshoot with Bella Baby Photography, with parents engaged and happy, and staff rewarded with the opportunity to witness the photographer at work.

Christine Agustin, of Clinton Township, and Sarah McDaniel, of Hazel Park, both gave birth prematurely to daughters at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.

Agustin’s daughter, Harmony Grace Tennille, came at 29 weeks on Sept. 17. Her due date was Thanksgiving — Agustin’s birthday — but a tumor growing on Agustin’s placenta blocked Harmony’s nutrients and prevented her from growing.

“We have been here three months since yesterday, so we’ve spent Halloween, Thanksgiving and probably Christmas here,” Agustin said in a Dec. 18 phone interview. Her daughter has grown to 7 pounds, 5 ounces, since birth, when she weighed 2 pounds, 3 ounces.

Agustin said she spends every day with her daughter, from approximately 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the latest. She said the medical staff in the NICU has been great, but the experience is emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting. She has become close with some of the other moms in the unit, and she tries to make her daughter’s 50-square-foot space a home.

“(Harmony) is doing really good. She’s at the end stretch. She’s at the point where she needs to learn how to eat. She’s just so small still, and she’s working on her stamina,” Agustin said. “(The photoshoot) was so cute. (Harmony) was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It was really nice to put us in the holiday spirit.”

McDaniel’s daughter, Vera Phillips, was born at 24 weeks and weighed 2 pounds, 4 ounces — now she is 2 ounces shy of 6 pounds. She was due Jan. 25 and was born three and a half months early, on Oct. 11.

The pregnancy was a surprise. McDaniel didn’t realize she was pregnant until mid-June, and at her first appointment, she discovered that she was almost 10 weeks pregnant. She was later diagnosed with a low-lying placenta.

During a routine checkup, she was told that the baby was on the verge of being born, and she underwent an emergency C-section that day.

“Today will be 24 hours with no (supplemental) oxygen,” McDaniel said in a Dec. 19 phone interview. “I spend at least 12 hours a day here. I only missed a couple days because I didn’t feel right, and they say if you’re not feeling well to just stay out.”

She said she loved the photoshoot because the shots turned out so well, and also the parents got to see all of the other babies in the NICU. Vera was dressed as Santa Claus.

“It was really awesome the hospital did that for all of us. Not only did they get to dress up, but we also got copies of professional photos of our infants,” McDaniel said. “It’s been a crazy experience. Obviously, nobody expects to go into labor and give birth at 24 weeks, but the doctors, nurses and the entire staff has been so nice and helpful.”

To view the full photo gallery of Beaumont Hospital’s holiday photoshoot, visit Beaumont Health’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BeaumontHospitals.

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