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With their triplets only days old and living in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the Burnetts didn’t realize that Valentine’s Day was coming up. They can barely keep the days straight as they cope with caring for three premature babies. But, when Cupid delivered a Valentine’s gift — their babies dressed in red hats with cards and chocolate — the Burnetts could feel the love.
“It was a complete surprise,” dad Clayton Burnett, 37, told TODAY. “We are sitting there scared every day, just trying to spend time with our babies. To get a magical present from our babies made it normal for a bit.”
The special Valentine's Day treat was organized by Rebecca Keunen, the March of Dimes family support coordinator at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. She wants to help parents create memories and celebrate milestones with their children in the NICU.
“I always try to do something special during the holidays for our families just to give them a sense of normalcy and allow them a way to celebrate,” she said.
Kelly Burnett, 37, gave birth to the triplets, two identical girls and a boy, on February 3, when she was 32 weeks pregnant, at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. For the most part the triplets are healthy, just small. Laney weighed 3 lbs. 14. oz., Hadley weighed 3 lbs. and Brody weighed 4 lbs. 1 oz.
“They have to learn how to suck, swallow, breathe,” said Kelly Burnett.
While the triplets haven’t faced any major illnesses, they have struggled with jaundice and possibly have heart murmurs. Every time the Burnetts hear alarms, they worry something terrible is happening.
For Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, Keunen and the staff dressed the babies like presents. Keunen wanted to do something similar for Valentine’s Day. A nurse’s mom, Thea Alter, made red hats for the babies and the nurses took the babies’ footprints to make hearts for a Valentine’s Day card, which the babies gave to their parents with a box of chocolates. Then three professional photographers, all of whom had babies in the NICU, took photos of the babies.
“That is one of the most special things we can do for our families. Not all of them are able when the baby leaves the hospital to get professional photos,” she said. “The pictures allow them to see how far their babies go from graduating from the NICU to being healthy, happy babies.”
The Burnetts' picture remains extra special because it captures a first.
"That was my first time holding all three for the same time. It was really special," Kelly Burnett said.
Parents could also write Valentine’s cards to their babies. The Burnetts worked on their cards separately and then combined their messages.
“It was a great opportunity to sit back and reflect,” Burnett said. “We had a lot of poignant moments.”