By Kate Barcellos
For parents of a child in the neonatal intensive care unit, waiting and wondering whether their newborn will be OK can be terrifying.
Almost two years ago, Nancy Snow, licensed practical nurse at Rutland Regional Medical Center, came face-to-face with her own worst fears: Her first granddaughter Ella was born at RRMC, and was immediately rushed to the NICU unit at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for assistance.
Despite her background in nursing and maternity, Snow was suddenly forced into the position that she had seen many parents endure. She was powerless.
“The fear of not-knowing,” Snow said of waiting in the hospital to hear of Ella’s condition. “It can be very scary.”
Fortunately, baby Ella’s health was recovered, and shortly after Ella’s NICU visit, Snow started dreaming.
“I never dream,” Snow said. “I’m one of those people who has dreams every five years or so.”
In her dream, Snow said she saw elephants playing with a young child in a mountainous land illuminated with multicolored lights.
The visions continued: In March of 2017, two months after Ella’s birth, Snow said she was practicing reiki energy work on a client when she saw happy, playful mother elephants cradling a baby.
Snow remembered how she felt being in the NICU waiting for baby Ella, and with encouragement from friends and coworkers, she decided to collect her dreams and visions into a storybook that would ease the hearts of parents and children with loved ones in the NICU.
“It’s a book written through a baby’s eyes,” Snow said.
Friend and graphic designer Norma Montaigne illustrated the piece, another friend, Julie White, edited it, and with the help of a self-publishing package from Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, “Ella and the Magical Elephants: A Story of Hope, Love, and Miracles” was created earlier this year.
The story begins with Ella’s birth, just as it happened: on a cold, blustery January night, surrounded by doctors who sprang into action.
Except in the book, the doctors are elephants, named for two nurses who helped Ella make it through: Dr. Robin and Dr. Anna.
Ella falls into a sleep while being cared for by her nurses, and in her sleep she travels to another land filled with rainbow lights, baby elephants and their mothers, who teach her to play hopscotch, jump rope, play hide and seek and how to fly a kite, among other games.
In many scenes, Ella is portrayed as having some physical differences, or having a different wardrobe, which Snow said was intentional.
“Because she’s every baby that has to go to NICU,” Snow said.
When the rainbow lights in her mountain playground begin to fade, Ella leaves her new friends and returns from her dreamland to wake safely in her mother’s arms.
“It’s meant as a comfort for the parents,” Snow said. “When the baby is in the hospital, she’s actually off playing happily with the magical elephants.”
“Ella and the Magical Elephants: a Story of Hope, Love and Miracles” is available at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester and at RRMC’s gift shop, but Snow said she hopes the book will travel far.
“This has to be on every shelf in every NICU,” Snow said.