Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Santa at St. Vincent's Hospital

Last weekend we had our 1st Santa visit to the NICU at St. Vincent's hospital in Birmingham. We had an amazing visit! It was almost surreal walking through St. Vincent's with the Birmingham volunteers. I'm still kind of in shock that God has opened the door in Birmingham and also in Huntsville. I probably shouldn't be shocked but when we started Footprints we had no idea the Lord would take it to other cities. And I just think this is a small glimpse of the HUGE things He has in store for us. The Lord is truly amazing and we give him ALL the glory for the great things he is doing in the Footprints Ministry! Birmingham has a wonderful dedicated group of volunteers. Below is a story from the associate pastor, Jack Hinnen, of Riverchase United Methodist Church, he was one of the elfs for our visit.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the NICU at St. Vincent’s hospital with an organization called Footprints. My part was minor; I simply dressed up as an elf and escorted Santa through the unit. This is not your typical Santa visit. The kids don’t holler and get excited when the big man with a red suit comes in. In fact, except for the occasional unhappy young one, our day in the NICU was incredibly quiet. But the lack of noise did not imply a lack of awareness or activity. The NICU can be a pretty intense place! In this hospital unit, every second, every look, and every moment is precious. There were families there who had been there weeks with no sure idea of when they’d be able to go home. There were grandparents there who had put jobs, families, and life on hold until their newest family members could be well. There are nurses and physicians who, like angels, flutter around restoring not just health but humanity to the smallest babies and the most anxious parents. It is into this place that we brought a bit of Christmas Spirit.

As a pastor, I live for times when people reach out to one anther. But Footprints is about meeting people where they are and ministering to them, in even the most hard to reach places not in the name of Santa, but in the name of Jesus. What Footprints offered was a chance to bring people out of the timeless and unending watching of the NICU and remind them that they are not alone. Christmas, the story of the birth of another baby, could reach them even in the NICU. I felt my heart lifted to know that a prayer, a stocking full of supplies, and a picture with a jolly fat man could be brought into as solemn place as the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and connect with those with heavy hearts. Like I said, my part was minor, but I felt God moving in that place. Jesus says a thing or two about reaching out to the least of these. In the NICU that day, we saw some of the smallest, most precious, people we could possibly meet. And it made my Christmas.

Jack Hinnen
Associate Pastor Riverchase United Methodist Church

Thank you so much to all of the volunteers who helped with the 1st Santa visit at St. Vincent's! We are so excited about the future plans for Footprints in Birmingham!
Thank you Matt and Nicole Collier, Alison Baggett, Cindy Davis, Ben and Lurenda Avery, Jack and Cheryl Hinnen, and Glenn Wilson.
"God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart by spreading the Good News about his Son." Romans 1:9

Monday, December 29, 2008

Baptist East Reunion Party

A few weeks ago Baptist East hospital in Montgomery had their annual NICU Reunion party. This was our 1st year to help with the party. It was so much fun! The hospital had Santa come and lots of goodies and treats. It was a great time for the parents to reunite with the nurses and other families that they become friends with during thier NICU stays. We got to see so many of our Footprints families and even meet new families who received our bags. It was so amazing to the progress each of these babies have made! Thank you Lord for doing great things through the lives of each of these children! Please see the pictures below of a few of our Footprints' babies.
"He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles." Job 5:9

John Martin Douglas
Raley Marie Parkman
Peyton Elizabeth Barranco
Harper and Lilly Mielke

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Spreading Christmas Cheer!

On Saturday, we had a wonderful visit to the NICU at Baptist South with Santa! This is my absolute favorite event we do each year! It is such a humbling experience during such a hectic time of year. It's like you walk into another world literally. There's no traffic and crowds to fight, no one is concerned with whether they finished their Christmas shopping, no lines to stand in, no Christmas hustle, just special gifts in the NICU. Those special gifts are the precious babies these parents received this year! I wish there was a way for everyone to experience this visit. We brought the babies their "1st Christmas stocking" filled with goodies and took pictures for the parents with Santa. Normally these precious babies would miss their 1st Christmas picture with Santa and probably not have a stocking simply because their parents are spending countless hours at the hospital with them. We are so blessed to be able to provide this opportunity for these families!

The Lord definitely uses this opportunity to remind me what Christmas is all about. It's not about the gifts, Santa, and shopping. It's about the birth of our Savior! It's so, so easy to get wrapped up in all the other things during the Christmas season. I hope the pictures below will be a reminder to you of what is important this Christmas!

You may also click HERE for more pictures that were featured in the Montgomery Advertiser.

Also, I asked a sweet Elf, Jeff Branch, to share his experience of his first visit to the NICU. Please read below:
There are so many emotions and thoughts that run through my head after experiencing the NICU at Baptist South. We get so comfortable with normal life; it is hard to understand the pain and stress that parents and families feel in this trying time. Witnessing a mother stare at her new born child through clear plastic, longing to touch, hold, and show unconditional love does not scratch the surface of the emotions that fill her heart daily. Moving gradually from room to room, one through four, each one representing a step to the family’s departure together to normal life makes it is easy to see so much progress in such a short time. But reality is that time moves in slow motion during their stay at the NICU. Many of these babies have been there for weeks, and some several months. I remember viewing one child that was 1lb. 10oz. that was no more than a week old.

I still have warm images in my head of how hard the nurses at Baptist South work, and the appreciation that is shown by all. They are truly angels and it is very evident of the love and compassion that each one of them exerts. I remember seeing a nurse sitting in a corner feeding a baby boy a bottle, gently rocking back and forth and talking to the child as if it was her own. She had her arms cradled around his body and eagerly bragged of the progress that he had made. I witnessed the gentleness that all the nurses displayed when placing cute Santa hats on all the babies’ heads, holding them just right and telling them to smile hoping to get the perfect picture for their parents.

These children are fighting to survive from the time that they enter this world. I remember all the tubes, IV’s, and monitors that measure the many things important to their success. I feel sorry for their parents, many of whom do not live in Montgomery, who were unfortunately not present last Saturday to experience the gift that The Footprint’s Ministry brings to the NICU all year and especially this Christmas season. The look on the parents’ faces when Santa walked into the room was glowing with joy. One mother immediately started crying and was overtaken with happiness. Another father was so proud and eager to take a picture with his new child and Santa that he could hardly contain himself. Other parents and family members shared in the joy simply that people would take time to visit them and offer prayer. Kim and Glenn Wilson, and all the support staff of this great organization provide the light at the end of the tunnel for these families. It provides hope to hear the true testimonies of other parents who have been in their shoes and can relate to the hurdles being faced everyday. These are the true blessings that Kim and The Footprint’s Ministry brings to these families delivering blue stockings for the boys and pink for the girls, all filled with gift cards and other necessities during their stay at Baptist South. Most of all, they bring the true message of Christmas to these families. The act of giving, the support of prayer, and true hope that God’s plan will happen in their child’s life is the best Christmas gift these parents will ever receive. Jeff Branch

I also want to thank the following people for helping make this Santa visit a Huge success!
Glenn Wilson-Santa and my husband :-)
Jeff Branch-Elf
Chris Hagan-Elf
Amanda Hagan-Footprints Volunteer
Nicole Collier-Birmingham Chapter
Jeff Dickey-Heritage Baptist Church Discipleship Minister
Jennifer Foster-Heritage Baptist Church Childrens Minister
Sherry Melton-Footprints Volunteer

Dana Gallahair-NICU Case Manager and Footprints bag distributor
Melody Ragland-Baptist Hospital Public Relations

Our Stockings

Sweet Family and Santa!

A precious family that is on our prayer list!

One of Footprints' favorite nurses Brooke!

Melody Ragland, Baptist PR, with Santa

Chris-elf, Kim, Santa, and Jeff-elf

Dana Gallahair, NICU Case Manager and Santa

All of Santa's helpers!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

NICU Journey of Raley Parkman

Below is the story of Raley Parkman, a Footprints' baby. You may also visit her caringbridge page HERE. Raley had a long hard 3 months in the NICU, Praise the Lord she's now home! Thank you to Kadra, her mother, for sharing her her heart with us!

Have you ever thought about how life can change in a matter of one day, one moment or one second for that matter? A pregnancy that seemed so normal and right in one moment changed our lives in the matter of a second. I delivered my sweet baby girl, Raley, at 28 weeks gestational. I never even made it to my third trimester! Raley was born early Friday morning on July 11, 2008. She weighed 2 lbs 4 oz and was 14.5 inches long. After delivery I remember crying and asking while lying on the operating table “why isn’t she crying?” As a second time mom I remember the jubilation and warmth of hearing your child’s first cry. I never got that with Raley. She was immediately intabated and rushed to Baptist East Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Her first cry would be the first of many milestones that I would not experience for several weeks. Ignorant to the depth of the NICU because I had never been directly impacted by it, other than a supporter of the Footprint’s Ministry, I immediately learned how important and extremely necessary it was for the survival of my new tiny baby! Raley’s survival was not dependant on my womb anymore it was in the hands of the doctors and nursing staff of the NICU. The emotions of a normal pregnancy are difficult enough but this situation was ten fold to what I had experienced with the “normal” delivery of my son. Due to me having extremely high blood pressure and the risk of more seizures Raley was 24 hours old before I was allowed to see her, other than through the lens of our camera. My heart sunk with grief when I saw her tiny body lie there with wires and contraptions monitoring her and basically keeping her alive. What did I do to cause this? What could I have done to prevent it? If only I could have her back in my womb again where I could be the one breathing for her, not this man made contraption they call a ventilator! Emotion after emotion ran through my entire being at that second. During Raley’s stay in the NICU she was on the ventilator for two weeks, CPAP for several days and the nasal cannula for several weeks. She endured fluctuation in weight that delayed her progress and two different types of infections. She also battled to eat successfully with a bottle for the last month she was there. She had 8 blood transfusions and simply 91 days away from her family that wanted her home so badly. On October 11, 2008, exactly 3 month’s to the day of her birth, Raley was discharged from the NICU weighing 5lbs 9oz and 18.5 inches long. I will always remember the simple things about that day. Waking up with her and dressing her in her “going home” outfit. Seeing her in her car seat and being beside her during her first car ride. Sounds silly, right? Not to a mother who’s waited so long to do those simple things! Since her arrival home she has grown by leaps and bounds. At 5 month’s old she now weighs over 11 pounds and is perfect in every way. Her hands and feet are so perfect and delicate. Her smile is so sweet and warm and I cherish every breath I feel and hear. Although 3 month’s may have seemed like forever to us, it was only a small glimpse of life that we will treasure because our sweet angel survived and continues to gain strength with each new day the Lord has provided her. I will never take for granted each breath that one of my children take and I thank our God daily for them!

Our family will always be grateful for the love and support of all the people that took the time to write a simple note of encouragement, for the prayers lifted up on Raley’s behalf and the constant love and support from so many footprint ministry volunteers. We will also be eternally indebted to the staff at Baptist East NICU. We could have not asked for better love and care for our sweet angel. Each nurse and doctor has a special place in our hearts for giving us the gift of a healthy baby.

Kadra Parkman

"We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 2-3

A few days old in the NICU

At home with her Mommy!

Powerful Picture!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


We have been serving St. Vincent's hospital in Birmingham since September. Nicole has done a wonderful job of recruiting volunteers but we do need more. We have an area for everyone to serve! Just a few areas you could serve are making bags, collecting donations, fundraising, and sending notes of encouragement to our families. We are also in need of people who can monogram our burp cloths. We have the burp cloths and patterns, we just need volunteers to monogram. If you or anyone you know in the Birmingham area would like to volunteer to help with Footprints' Birmingham chapter please contact Nicole Collier at birminghamfootprints@hotmail.com The Birmingham Parents magazine recently wrote an article on Footprints to see it please click HERE and turn to page 30. It is a great article! Also on this Sunday night on ABC 33/40 will be airing a story on their MATTERS OF FAITH segment about the Footprints Ministry. We are so excited about these opportunites the Lord has blessed us with in the Birmingham area. We are praying that the Lord will continue to bless us with many more volunteers in Birmingham! Nicole Collier is heading up our Birmingham chapter of Footprints. Nicole has been a great blessing to this ministry. I asked Nicole to be our guest blogger today to share what's been going on in Birmingham:

One week ago today I received the first call from our Birmingham Parent magazine article.

7 days and 5 new volunteers later, here we are. When we were contacted about writing a piece on Footprints I was not expecting to have this much of an outpour of support from the community.

It has been exciting and at times heart breaking to hear so many people from the community want to participate with Footprints. Where does the heart break come from- hearing their stories of their own heartache through NICU. Here is the best thing; the Lord led each one to us. We started in September with 50 bags for St. Vincent’s. 3 months and 100 bags later we are starting to gain momentum; going full speed ahead.

I am looking forward to the coming months as we start preparing the bags here in Birmingham. I also look forward to our first fundraiser event that we hope to have in the first quarter of next year.

I want to take a brief moment here and thank Kim. Without her listening to the Lord and His call, I would not be able to be a part of this wonderful ministry.

Nicole Collier

"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." Hebrews 13:16