Beads of Courage – telling stories of strength and bravery in NICU

Beads of Courage – telling stories of strength and bravery in NICU


Yesterday marked World Prematurity Day when the world was awash with purple and our news feeds were filled with incredible stories of miracle babies from across the globe. It’s a very special day for all those who are part of a premature baby’s journey; parents, siblings, friends and NICU teams. For Amy, born at 25 weeks, this momentous day was marked with a return to her first home, the Rotunda Hospital; where she was presented with her “Beads of Courage”.

Each and every bead on the chain represents her incredible NICU journey. A long and rocky road of intubations, extubations, blood draws, blood transfusions, antibiotics, desats, bradys, bagging and much more over her 143 days in hospital. It tells the story of her incredible fight and captures not just the bumpy days but also the special moments; our first cuddle, her first bath and her first breast feed. Culminating in 412 beads (I counted them!) it is a beautiful and moving representation of a battle fought and won but most especially for our family it is a visual reminder of the care and love Amy received during her time in the Rotunda Neo Natal Unit.

A huge congratulations to NICU nurses Christina Kilpatrick and Marie Lynch who have led the launch of this fabulous initiative which is now available to babies and parents in the Rotunda NICU.

You can read more about the Beads of Courage Programme below.


Amy pictured on World Prematurity Day with the team from the Rotunda NICU receiving her Beads of Courage

The Beads of Courage Programme at the Rotunda Hospital 

To coincide with World Prematurity Day 2016, The Rotunda Hospital Dublin launched a new initiative to help parents of premature babies. The ‘Beads of Courage’ programme is designed to support and strengthen families of premature babies by celebrating their progress and milestones while in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), no matter how small.

The ‘Beads of Courage’ programme was launched in the United States in 2005. When premature babies are enrolled in this programme parents are given a bead bag, a piece of string and beads that spell out their babies name along with a bead journal to document their baby’s journey in the NICU.

The journal incorporates procedures, treatments and milestones that babies endure when born prematurely. Colourful beads will then be given to parents, each representing the different procedures, treatments and milestones. Examples of these beads include; phototherapy, sleepover at the hospital, parental firsts such as first bath, first feed, first cuddles and one of the biggest achievements for a baby in the NICU- Discharge home.

The Rotunda NICU is the first in Ireland to introduce the NICU families Beads of Courage Programme. The programme was introduced to the Hospital by NICU nurses at The Rotunda, Christina Kilpatrick and Marie Lynch who were informed of the benefits of the programme from Dr. Michael Boyle who witnessed its success in the NICU in Rosie Hospital, Cambridge. The NICU nurses subsequently set up a beads of courage working group who have prepared for the successful implementation of this initiative in the NICU.

Christina Kilpatrick, NICU nurse at The Rotunda Hospital said; “By introducing ‘Beads of Courage’ into our NICU, we aim to support our parents and involve them in their babies journey in order to enhance positive coping strategies and demonstrate their courage and achievements as a family during their time in the NICU. It is so important for parents to feel part of their baby’s journey. New Mammy’s and Daddy’s can often feel helpless and stressed when their baby is in the NICU. By documenting each and every experience it reassures them that although the journey may be difficult at times look what they have courageously achieved so far”.

Marie Lynch, NICU nurse at The Rotunda Hospital said: “This Program gives parents something tangible to explain their journey in the NICU to siblings, families and friends. This helps people to learn about and understand the courage and strength demonstrated by them as a family. Furthermore, parents can use the beads to explain to their son or daughter the courage and bravery they demonstrated as a baby in their first adventure of life”
This programme would not be possible without all of the hard work and dedication of the multi-disciplinary team in the NICU. Christina and Marie would like to thank The Rotunda Foundation, senior management and all NICU staff in particular the beads of courage working group for all of their hard work and support with this new initiative.

The initiative will be provided free of charge via the charitable arm of the Hospital, The Rotunda Foundation.


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