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Nurses Throw Graduation Party for Mom in the Hospital - Then Another for Her Twins

Nurses Throw Graduation Party for Mom in the Hospital–Then Another for Her Twins

Graduation party
Babies together

The medical team at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health’s Birth Centers can add another title to their resumes: party planners. 

They recently threw a graduation ceremony in the hospital for a mother who earned her PhD just three days before giving birth to twins. Four weeks later, they held another celebration, but this time a graduation from the NICU for her twins. 

“I think what makes our birth center unique are the people who work here,” said Dr. Liezl Sapico, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (VMFH). “We want patients to know that our birth center is a safe place to have their baby, and that they will have a team of professionals who will listen, be their advocates and include them in the decision making process. We also want to create an atmosphere where staff want to come and work, and we have that here.”

Sarah and iea Tov said they interviewed many OBGYNs, midwives, and researched hospitals across the region, but when they found Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Birth Center at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, they knew they’d found the right place. 

“It feels like the team is family,” said Sarah. “To be seen and loved and cared for–they understood what we’re going through and legitimized it. They provided amazing physical care, but they also took care of us emotionally. It was nice to have a space that felt so safe and to be so seen by our team.”

Baby in cap
Provider holding baby

Sarah had worked toward her PhD in Special Education from the University of Washington for nearly seven years. Finally earning the academic achievement was a dream come true, but there was no time to celebrate. Just three days after she defended her dissertation, her twin boys made an early arrival. Sarah had the twins at 33 weeks and 6 days.

When she and her partner iea arrived at the hospital, they were immediately taken to the Birth Center. 

“You’re going to have your babies today,” iea remembers the nurse saying to them. 

What happened next was a whirlwind. 

Sarah experienced a variety of complications, but the team supported them every step of the way. Sarah was admitted to the hospital, and the twins were whisked away to the speciality care nursery where they were placed on oxygen. 

“We knew we were being cared for by a great team,” said iea. “One of the things that really eased my mind was knowing we were in good hands.”

The Level II Special Care Nursery at Virginia Mason Medical Center supports fragile newborns, and NICLET rooms allow moms to not be separated from their babies as they receive more advanced care. 

Soon, Sarah and her twin boys were reunited, and together they started on a road to recovery.

They stayed in the hospital for 28 days. It quickly became like a second home, and their care team became an extension of their family. 

During those long days in the hospital, iea came up with an idea. They went to their care team and asked if it would be possible to have a graduation celebration in the hospital. Sarah didn’t have time to celebrate her academic achievement before the babies arrived, and that weighed on iea’s mind. They wanted to do something to make Sarah feel special. It didn’t take long to mobilize a plan. The nurses took the idea and ran with it–and they kept it all a complete surprise.

Care team with mom
Babies in crib

The day of the graduation party, Dr. Sapico brought a cake, a handmade sign was created by one of the team members, nurses cheered and threw confetti and a special song played in the hallway of the hospital as Sarah walked at a graduation ceremony unlike any other. Her advisor even came and presented Sarah with her hood to signify her doctoral degree. With their twins, iea and the care team, they all celebrated.

It may not have been the graduation she envisioned, but It was a day Sarah, iea and their care team won’t forget

“It was so special,” said Sarah. “It’s a testament to the patient-centered care the team provides. It brought us so much joy.”

“We wanted them to know the care we provide is not just about their physical wellbeing,” said Tina Hollendar, a charge nurse in the Birth Center. “We wanted to make them feel special. Caring for people is what inspires me every day.”

After nearly a month in the hospital, the twins were finally ready to be discharged–but not without a celebration of their own.

“Graduating from the NICU is a big milestone,” said Mary O’Brien, one of the nurses who cared for the family. “I’m honored to be part of their birth story.”

A few nurses even came into the hospital during their time off to celebrate and say goodbye. 

“I wasn’t going to miss it,” said Liz Campbell, a nurse at Virginia Mason Medical Center. “As a nurse, you want your patients to know you support them, advocate for them, and are there for them. It’s those small gestures that make my patients feel truly seen, known, and cared for to a level beyond what they may have anticipated before coming to our Birth Center. It’s dedication to the person, not just the patient.”

When the twins were ready to leave and graduate from the NICU, Sarah and iea dressed them in purple caps and gowns. The nursing staff and medical team all came to say goodbye, and they handed the twins graduation certificates and adorned the cribs with balloons and decorations for photos. One nurse even knitted the twins rainbow hats to match their vibrant going home outfits. 

“Our story is full of beauty and joy, but there were hard moments in there too,” said iea. “What made it less hard was having our care team by our side. We are so grateful, and we really wanted to share our story so others may find that same care.”