Having a baby taken to the NICU at birth can be a terrifying experience, but families at the NICU at Children’s Hospital now have dozens of donated books and blankets to help lift their spirits.

Alannah Pionessa turned nine on June 8. Instead of gifts for herself, she asked for presents that would go to the NICU. 

Nine years ago, she spent around 80 days in the NICU. Doctors told her family they didn’t know if she’d make it. 

“And I showed them, because I survived,” she said. 

As well as being premature, she had excess fluid in her body at birth.

“She weighed 4 pounds 13 ounces when she was born,” her mom, Heather Rust said. “After all the swelling and fluid was removed from her body, she weighed just under 3 pounds.”

Alannah spent months in Children’s NICU, and now she’s giving back to the place that gave her life. 

“It feels great,” she said. 

She dropped off 132 bundles of books and blankets for the families there. 

“I’ve seen babies respond to their parent’s voices, even some of our tiniest patients,” Victoria Kucinski, the NICU nurse manager at Children’s said. “So I think having books to read is really neat.”

The blankets will go home with the families as a reminder of their time in the NICU. 

It was a roller coaster of a time for Alannah’s family, but they said it’s a time they’ll always hold close to their hearts. 

“They gave us our baby,” her mom said. “They gave us our daughter. She wouldn’t have made it if she was born at the other local hospital she was scheduled to be born at. These doctors and nurses saved her life, multiple times.”