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Nurtured in the NICU: A Journey’s Story Told Through a Collection of Beads

Updated: Mar 6, 2020

By Mahyra Mostafa

We tend to forget to give credit to ourselves, especially in hard times. Sometimes people around us remind us of how strong we are. Sometimes we need those reminders to help us push through the difficult days of our journey. Mount Sinai’s neonatal nurses believe the journeys of the babies and families they meet and care for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit must be honoured in a meaningful way.

Janet Narciso, a NICU parent resource nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, initiated the ‘Journey Beads’ program. A 2-year-old program, the Journey Beads remind families of how far they have come and how strong their babies are.

The Journey Beads’ string begins with the baby’s name and intends to celebrate the milestones every parent looks forward to, including a baby’s first bath, first full oral feeds, weight gain, first breath without oxygen and other common milestones achieved in the NICU. The Journey Beads are a part of the Family Integrated Care Program, where families are also given beads for taking part in the care of their babies, such as changing diapers, taking temperatures and even attending medical rounds every morning. It is a program that values the expertise of parents as the most knowledgeable of their baby. The Journey Beads came into existence, through a not for profit organization named HandfullHearts. Each bead is a memory of the family’s resilience and a celebration of their success.

The Journey Beads program has exceeded expectations! Not only does it add colour to the daily lives of families within the NICU, it instills hope in their hearts and brings everyone closer together, families and staff. The beads have become a topic to bond over and a trend that everyone wants to have! From the experience with the Journey Beads, nurses decided to have their own beads to record their own job milestones. For example, nurses receive a purple heart bead when taking part in the Family Integrated Care Program. Families and staff make suggestions on new beads and the bead numbers are increasing every year!

I think what comes out of this is the resilience of the families. These babies are going through a journey that no one can really understand. The stress of the babies and their families is unimaginable. In my opinion, anything that could be done to brighten their days, bring them good memories, and put a smile on their faces is worth every penny. These babies and their families are superstars!” – Janet Narciso, NICU parent resource nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital.

The Journey Beads Program is a project that involves sourcing beads, sorting and distributing them. It has received acceptance and recognition from families and physicians, who donate yearly. Your efforts and donations can make a difference as well. Please help spread the word and show the Mount Sinai NICU some love!

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Nurtured in the NICU stories are created by the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation to highlight the wonderful work of doctors, nurses, and parent volunteers in Canada’s NICUs. For more information or if you would like to share an initiative happening in your NICU, please send us an email at

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