MISSION HILLS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Strong healthy kids filled the lobby of a hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. It's hard to picture how small and weak they were at birth.
All were born premature, and some spent months in the NICU at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills.
"My heart just broke," said Gabriela Luna, mother of Aaliyah Arellano. "It hurt because she was so small."
Thinking back on her daughter's birth brings her to tears. At 3 pounds and 9 ounces, Aaliyah struggled with a lung infection.
Logan Marquez, now 5, also had a rough start when she was born 6 weeks premature.
"He had problems eating and breathing at the same time," said his mother, Lisa Marquez. "He had to learn how to coordinate the two and he was struggling with that, so he was here for almost a month before he was able to come home with me."
Maternity nurse Jennifer Dineen would see parents deal with their anguish. So she and colleagues wanted to find a way to lift their spirits. After a year of planning, portraits of preemie success stories now line the walls.
"We've already had parents who have babies in the NICU thanking us," Dineen said.
Aaliyah is one of the 10 to 15 percent of babies born every year in the U.S. who end up spending time in the NICU. For many parents, being separated from their newborns is the hardest part.
"You see people stop and read these stories, and I think it just validates that your baby's in the NICU, your baby's sick and you didn't plan for this," Dineen said. "Your baby's going to have a beautiful outcome, and your baby's going to go home healthy. We just don't know when."
A donor paid for the materials. Volunteers took the pictures, wrote the stories and created the murals. Within days, nurses saw the difference it made.
"I think that is just one of the powerful things that we can do for these moms. You're not alone, you're on this journey and we're here to support you," Dineen said.
Aaliyah's mom hopes her daughter's story will turn a parent's walk of worry into a hallway of hope.
"Have faith," Luna said. "Because everything is possible when you have faith."
Mission Hills hospital unveils preemie portraits, success stories to give parents hope
CIRCLE OF HEALTH
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