Colorful Baby Keepsake Doubles as Medical Diary
“TinyVictories of Life” beads track critically ill and premature infants’ medicaljourneys
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – AtSutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC)Van Ness Campus hospital, Child Life Specialists help parents mark theircritically ill or premature newborns’ milestones using colorful beads and charmswith the “Tiny Victories of Life” program.
Just ask new mom Amanda Bates about her son Asher’s Tiny Victoriesstrand of beads.
“Each bead that has a figure represents an achievement of that day,”says Bates, while holding a string with nearly 40 beads.
Critically ill and premature babies at CPMC spend their first weeks ormonths fighting to achieve crucial health markers. Child Life Specialists usethe aptly-named “Tiny Victories of Life” program as visual storytelling todocument and celebrate each baby’s remarkable journey.
Amanda Bates’ son Asher, who arrived six weeks early, is steadilyhitting important milestones that babies in the hospital’sNeonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) are required to reach before discharge.
The program was started in 2016 by hospital Child Life director, LoriDenault, who modeled it after “Beads of Courage,” a similar national initiativethat tracks patient progress using beads. (Sutter Medical Center inSacramento participates in Beads of Courage.)
Blue beads represent individual days, while special charms represent significantor personally meaningful achievements such as a duck charm for baby’s firstbath or a music note each time baby receives music therapy. Asher’s TinyVictories strand includes a red bead to mark meeting Santa Claus because hespent his first Christmas in the hospital.
The Tiny Victories of Life program encourages parents to forge a strongbond with their newborns—which can be a challenge when a baby is very ill andmust remain in the hospital for a long period of time after birth. Beads areadded to the strands each week during one-on-one family sessions or at a NICUparent group meeting.
CPMC Child Life Specialist Shannon Banahan says, “Tiny Victories is a way for parents to look forward to the progress their baby is making. Families can get overwhelmed in thinking about the long and seemingly never-ending days in the NICU. But once they look back on their beads and see how far their baby has come, it feels like there’s an end in sight and makes them hopeful and proud.”
On Asher’s discharge day, he received the final bead in his strand—the butterfly bead, which signifies he’s ready to spread his wings.
“Receiving the butterfly bead is always emotional for parents, bothbecause they are leaving this community of nurses and new parent friends and alsobecause they are finally being able to start this new chapter of life at homewith baby,” says Banahan.