ALBANY, Ga. -- They spread love by working during Christmas holidays with the smallest, most vulnerable patients at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.
The medical staff in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the hospital tends to the needs of babies born prematurely, before their due dates. At Christmastime, the staff seems to take on a special sparkle in their duties.
Each baby in the staff's care gets a "Baby's 1st Christmas" T-shirt, a picture with Santa and all the love the staff can dish out.
"Looking out for these children makes my heart feel like Christmas every day," said Lavondo Mande, an RN in the unit. "The love we feel in this unit is not in the dictionary or in medical books. It is indescribable."
The Neonatal ICU seems quieter than one would expect from rooms filled with 30 babies. Mostly the babies sleep tethered to heart, respiration and other monitors with lights flashing in, what else, red, white and green as if they were Christmas ornaments.
Even when a gray-bearded older gent, George Pressley Sr. wearing a Santa suit, calls, there is barely a whisper in the rooms. The atmosphere surrounding the children here in the room is nearly reverential.
"It is just that we get to help these children grow and move on," Mande said. "They are so special."
Santa holds each child, and his helper, in the guise of neonatal reparatory therapist Beverly Pressley-Pofford, takes a picture of the couple. The father and daughter have been giving photo keepsakes of Christmas for about 11 years.
A nurse passes by during a photo op and casually says, "Hiya, Santa."
"We know how hard it is for a mother and father to have a baby in the hospital for Christmas," Registered Nurse Sirlena Brown said. "We try to make their first Christmas special."
Another nurse, Lacey Allen, said that although the children are so young and small, she likes to think that in some way they remember their caretakers in the unit.
"I love that we can see their growth possibilities," Allen said. "One time a 14-year-old came back and remembered one nurse. The nurse took him back to where he was treated."