On Friday 15 December, Santa Claus returned to Mercy Hospital for Women’s (MHW) Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Special Care Nursery (SCN) to bring holiday cheer to the hospital’s youngest patients and their families.
The initiative gives families who are spending the Christmas holiday season with a sick or premature baby in hospital the opportunity to have their first Christmas photo with Santa.
This year is the fifth year Mercy Hospital for Women has had the pleasure of welcoming Father Christmas, and the first since COVID-19 disruptions temporarily halted the initiative.
Santa’s visit to the NICU and SCN was generously coordinated by former Mercy Hospital for Women patients Stephanie and Dean Brebner. In 2015, the Brebner family faced an unexpected challenge when their daughter Abigail was born 12 weeks premature. This led the family to spend a significant amount of time in the NICU during the Christmas holiday season.
The special project—which sees Mr Brebner don a Santa costume and take photos with the babies—was inspired by the Brebner family’s own first Christmas family photo, captured in the NICU on Christmas Day. The poignant moment unfolded after weeks of crucial care and support for baby Abigail, serving as a beacon of hope for the family during Christmas time.
‘Spending so much time in hospital after having a premature baby in those early stages of your child’s life is something you can’t plan for as a parent. It changes your world and your life,’ says Mrs Brebner.
‘We know how isolating it can be for parents to have a child in the hospital, especially during the holidays. This special project represents our way of standing beside parents who are going through one of the hardest challenges life can throw at you.’
Abigail Brebner, now a fit and healthy eight-year-old, is a testament to the care provided by the dedicated staff at Mercy Hospital for Women. Mrs Brebner says, ‘We are forever grateful for the love and care Mercy staff provided us over that period in our lives.’
We know how isolating it can be for parents to have a child in the hospital, especially during the holidays. This is our way of standing beside parents who are going through one of the hardest challenges life can throw at you.
Nurse Unit Manager of Neonatal Services Amy Farrelly says the NICU and SCN staff were ecstatic to be welcoming the Brebners and their special project back to Mercy Hospital for Women in 2023.
‘Every year, the NICU and SCN team eagerly anticipates Santa’s visit and the joy it brings to the families here. It hasn’t been the same celebrating Christmas without this project over the past few years,’ Ms Farrelly says. ‘We are immensely grateful for Stephanie and Dean’s commitment to giving back to our special community through this heartwarming event year after year.’
More information on the Mercy Hospital for Women Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Special Care Nursery (SCN) can be found here.
Banner image: (from left) Dean Brebner (aka ‘Santa’), Stephanie Brebner and Abigail Brebner at the Mercy Hospital for Women. (Photo courtesy of Mercy Health.)
Melbourne Catholic23 February 2024
Catholic Social Services Australia23 February 2024