Newborn babies in Christmas stockings will greet parents heading to Red Deer hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit on Christmas Day.
The hospital’s 40-year tradition of slipping little ones into seasonal stockings is done to lift the spirits of families who can’t take their babies home for the holidays, said Amie Mays, manager of the Neo-Natal Intensive care Unit at the hospital.
Infants in the NICU were either born prematurely or are recovering from jaundice or other health conditions that require longer hospital stays.
Seeing these stocking-clad tots “makes your heart melt,” said Mays. “All of the parents love it when they come in on Christmas morning and see their babies in the stockings.”
Over the years, Mays has seen much joy in the faces of smiling moms and dads, who pull out their cameras and take pictures of the cute infants to share with friends and family.
The latest NICU and maternity unit Christmas stockings were quilted by long-time Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre volunteer Angie Scott. The effort took all of last January and February to finish.
Scott, 73, has been sewing items for hospital patients for more than 50 years. She recalled it all started because of her migraines.
Scott explained that sewing helps divert her attention from these painful episodes. The former Pine Lake-area farmer began making blankets for Toronto’s SickKids hospital, one of the few health facilities at the time that accepted handmade community donations.
Years later, she started quilting bereavement blankets for families of palliative care patients at Red Deer hospital. But after her husband of 48 years and best friend, Don Scott, died in 2018, she became too depressed to continue making bereavement blankets.
“I could no longer think about death,” said Scott, who instead, jumped at the chance to make stockings for newborns in the NICU.
The grandmother of three added that she always thinks about who she’s sewing for, and is uplifted at the thought of the tiny infants.
Recently she’s also started making stockings, as well as Santa sacks, for the kids who are spending Christmas in the pediatric ward. Through the generosity of donors and hospital staff, these get filled with toys to surprise the young patients on Christmas morning.
“Some children worry that Santa Claus will miss them while they are here,” said Mays, “and we make sure that doesn’t happen.”
She’s very grateful for the efforts and generosity of hospital volunteers, such as Scott, and others who knit hats and blankets for babies and children. This is made possible through RDRHC Volunteer Resources, along with some supplies from Friends of the Red Deer Regional Hospital.
“At Christmas, they always seem to go above and beyond. It’s a nice gift and a surprise” for patients and their families, Mays added.