By Alyson Ward
Some people are just born to be Houston Astros fans.
That includes the newborns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, who all got tiny Astros T-shirts this month to celebrate the team’s run to the World Series.
When Houston’s home team advanced to the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, Kim Cole sprang into action.
Cole, a neonatal nurse practitioner in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), wanted to help the newborns and their families show some team spirit. So, she bought 120 tiny tees for infants, some designed to fit preemies as small as 1 pound. Then, she had the Astros logo printed on each little shirt.
“We just want all our little babies to be Astros fans,” Cole said.
That’s an easy sell for most of the NICU parents, she said – plenty of them are clad in Astros gear already. But she’s even won over a hardcore Yankees fan, a dad who gracefully accepted a wee T-shirt for his daughter that bore an orange star.
“Even a diehard Yankees fan was appreciative,” Cole said with a laugh.
Some of the babies are able to wear their shirts; others use them as a blanket. Cole told the Yankees fan he could use it for his daughter’s spit rag if he wanted. But, no matter what happens to the tiny shirts, the Astros’ playoff run has been a good distraction for NICU parents, she said. Having a NICU baby is nerve-wracking, but talking about baseball has been a welcome relief to some stressed-out dads and moms.
Raul Estrada’s tiny twin girls, Ana Lucia and Regina are 2 months old. Ana was born at just 14 ounces.
“The care, support and love we have received at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital has been so comforting,” Estrada said
Ana Lucia is now 2 pounds and her older—by mere minutes–sister is weighing in at 4 pounds now. The family jumped at the chance to outfit their girls in Astros gear in the NICU. For right now, the twins use it as a blanket to keep them warm.
“My wife and I and the grandparents appreciate the nurses treating us just like family and helping us every day,” Estrada said.
Dads, especially, can feel left out when their babies are in the NICU, Cole said. “We put a lot of attention on the moms, but how can we pull those daddies in?” The answer, in this case, is baseball. Cole and her NICU colleagues have even decorated the area’s lobby and front desk.
This isn’t the first time Memorial Hermann newborns have shown off their Astros pride. In 2017, the hospital showcased “baseball cards” featuring newborns dressed in blue and orange.
Cole herself has been an Astros fan for 40 years she said, ever since she married her husband. Their family has season tickets to the games, and Astros fandom has been a way for Cole to bond with her own small grandchildren (pictured above), who posed for family photos in Astros gear after the team won the World Series in 2017.
“It’s a way to interact with families, to kind of pull them in,” Cole said. “We’re not just taking care of the medical part, but we care about our patients’ families and we care about our community.”