Women’s Hospital NICU Patient Pays It Forward
Fourteen years ago, LillyAnna Zaleon-Tell was born at just 26 weeks gestation. A vibrant teen who gives back to other families with premature babies, she has come a long way since her days in Women’s Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Today, along with her mother and grandmother, she gives back to other families with NICU babies by sharing her story, helping with events, and sewing diaper burp clothes and changing pads.
After receiving support from Women’s Hospital and Family Support Network (FSN) of Central Carolina, Zaleon-Tell’s mom began volunteering with FSN as a parent council member and mentor. “Even as a toddler, LillyAnna would attend FSN meetings and events with her mother,” said Nancy Micca, FSN’s Director. “You could say we watched her grow up.”
Last August, when LillyAnna was asked to tell her story at a Women’s Hospital event, she jumped at the chance. She thought participating in this event would be the perfect way to celebrate her fourteenth birthday and how far she’s come. “As LillyAnna shared her story – and her birthday with us - there wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” reflected Micca. “LillyAnna’s brave, heartfelt story really spoke to people.”
For Zaleon-Tell, her mother and grandmother, helping Women’s Hospital’s smallest, most vulnerable patients and their families is a way for their family to give back and provide hope. The family brings real tablecloths and fresh flower arrangements along with homemade meals to events. They donate gifts for families, make purple hearts in honor of preemies, and most of all, they are there to inspire families like them.
“At a recent event, a sibling of a NICU infant recognized LillyAnna from a previous event and hugged her tightly,” added Micca. “Seeing LillyAnna thrive was such a reassuring, healing moment.”