Best gift of all: Young family shares NICU experience

November 9, 2017

It is where a parent’s worst fear and greatest love can be found all in the same place — the neonatal intensive care unit.

Chelsea Ellefson knew the NICU at Sanford Children’s in Bismarck like the back of her hand. As a NICU nurse, she had cared for countless premature babies, watching their parents pray for good news. But that couldn’t prepare Chelsea for her twin daughters, Elodie and Nora, to be born 14 weeks early and require critical care in the NICU.

Chelsea and her husband, Jimmy, spent a week watching their girls nestled in an incubator, covered in wires, before they got to hold them for the first time.

“I’ve handed many parents their children, so I thought I knew how it would feel,” Chelsea said. “But having a nurse hand me my babies was one of the most emotional moments of my life. The feeling was indescribable.”

“It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” Jimmy added.

For three months, Chelsea and Jimmy were the parents in the NICU praying. Every moment they could touch their girls, even to change a dirty diaper, felt like a gift.

“It was so tough leaving our babies every day, going home without them and knowing it would be a long time until we would,” Chelsea said.

But each night, Chelsea and Jimmy could sleep easy, knowing their babies were receiving expert care.

“The biggest thing that has gotten me through this is the support I’ve had from my family, friends and coworkers in the NICU. You can’t go through something like this and not develop a deep and strong bond with those who pull you through and give you these amazing gifts — two healthy baby girls.”

Today, Elodie and Nora are small but mighty 7-month-olds. They still receive care at Sanford Children’s for vision problems, but overall, they continue to thrive and amaze their proud parents.

“They have faced so many hurdles in their short lives but have proven themselves to be the strongest little girls,” Chelsea said. “They always find a way to overcome any challenges.

“My dream is just to see them grow up to be happy and healthy. I want them to enjoy life like every other child.”

Support from donors, like you, helps make that simple dream come true for families like the Ellefsons across the region. Please consider a gift today to help provide the state-of-the-art equipment and advanced training the NICU team needs to care for babies born too soon.