HARDEEVILLE, S.C. (WSAV) — Coastal Carolina Hospital is celebrating its latest class of NICU babies.

“This was one of the things that the families enjoyed the most. It’s real exciting to go home and just celebrating that we’re graduating in this journey is done for them,” said Erica Kubicki.

Kubicki is a nursery clinical lead at Coastal Carolina Hospital in their level two special care nursery.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, NICU, is a specialized medical facility that provides intensive care for newborns, especially those born prematurely or with medical complications.

Inspired by her work at big NICUs, Kubicki started a graduation program at Coastal Carolina in April 2022 to celebrate the babies going home.

Since then, they’ve had 120 graduates.

“When the opportunity came up for celebrating holidays, we thought, well, not just holidays, how can we focus on our NICU babies,” said Kubicki. “And part of that was celebrating this big milestone with them.”

Ordering graduation caps and gowns, the nurses dress and photograph the babies prior to discharge so parents can have a keepsake.

“Having a newborn who needs care in the NICU can be a stressful experience, and families now have the option to stay close to home for NICU care,” said Ryan Lee, CEO of Coastal Carolina Hospital.

This NICU is one of the few units in the Coastal Empire that takes care of babies greater than three and a half pounds for 32 weeks gestation and up. They also provide rooms for parents allowing for 24/7 parental visitation.

“It’s meant a lot to the family members from our community and even family members that travel to Hilton,” said Kubicki.

This is because they provide ventilation, respiratory and umbilical line support with specialties in lactation, physical therapy and echocardiogram capabilities.

Kubicki also shared that many nurses who are new the the NICU environment are excited to have this program to see how all their hard work has paid off.

“We’ve watched them at their sickest,” said Kubicki, “and now we get to celebrate them at their best, going home with their parents.”