Being a parent with two newborns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford can be very stressful, said Barkha Katiyar, especially when both babies weigh less than 4 pounds ... combined.
“So they were 27 weeks. They were one pound, 12 ounces and one pound, 14 ounces,” she said. “They had some issues and the doctors would say, 'We don't know', you'll just have to wait and see how well they do.”
Barkha desperately needed hope for her twin children Irika and Irith in a time where she and her husband felt alone in their situation.
But they soon found out they were not alone.
Hope came for the family in the form of a blanket and an uplifting personalized note from another person who was born prematurely.
“We come to the NICU and we find these blankets with this little card from a girl who explains that today she's 15 years of age and she was born with all the issues,” said Barkha. “She just sounds like a happy girl.”
Since Barkha’s daughter Irika reached the same age, she has wanted to give personalized gifts to the babies born in the NICU so that their families could feel the same comfort her family did.
Now a high school junior, Irika had an idea of what she wanted to do.
“I went to my neonatologist and asked him if I could do the same thing with the blankets and the note, but he said that the fuzz on the blankets, there would be a hygiene issue, so then he's like, 'Oh so think of a different idea',” said Irika.
Instead of opting to just writing a note, she decided to write an entire book dedicated to babies born prematurely, referring to herself as a “preemie.”
“I've always liked to write and draw,” said Irika. “I, I don't think I ever thought I was ever going to be able to do such a thing with my book.”
She had the opportunity to pass out her book, “Oops! I’m Early” at a NICU graduation party for families at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford who were leaving with their babies.
As she handed the books out to each individual family, Irika said she hoped they would get the same feeling her parents had when they received the blanket and letter.
“That was honestly such an eye-opening experience for me,” she said. “It was so great because I got to give out the books, some people even wanted my signatures, though they didn't know me.”
Irika said she hopes to continue the tradition passed down to her by that 15-year-old that blessed her family with confidence – every preemie baby deserves support from preemie grown-ups.