AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) – The Easter bunny is supposed to make kids happy. But this year, he worked his magic on some parents who could really use the joy.
“This is little Lian,” Jessica Wongward told FOX31, holding up her 3-month-old baby boy. He was born weeks premature, weighing just three pounds.
“The pregnancy was complicated by Lian having a heart condition called pulmonary valve stenosis, where one of his valves is narrowed,” Wongward said.
That meant Lian would need to undergo a procedure. And that meant a month and a half in a neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital Colorado. As you can guess, for first time parents, it doesn’t get much more lonely than going through a scare few can relate to.
That’s where the bunny comes in.
“I started a tradition when my sister had her kids of giving them their first stuffed bunny rabbit,” Darren Wongward, Lian’s dad, told FOX31.
Darren’s sister returned the favor, sending a stuffed bunny to Lian at the NICU. The family had it tucked away at first.
“Until one day we came in and saw that the family across the courtyard from us had their stuffed rabbit out. And Jess said, if theirs is out, we gotta bring our guy out in the light too,” Darren said.
“And then a couple days later, we noticed that they had turned their bunny rabbit facing us, so we faced our bunny rabbit to face them. And then next thing you knew, we turned around and their bunny rabbit had a sign saying ‘Hey!’ And that is exactly what we didn’t know we were waiting for,” Darren joked.
Seems the Wongwards weren’t alone in this after all. Right there, across the hospital, another family was going through a similar scare. Savannah and Tanner DeWitt and their baby Leni were at the NICU too. And they thought maybe some humor would cheer up those strangers across the courtyard. They were right.
Pretty much every day, the families went back and forth, putting a stuffed bunny in the window with a funny new message or meme. Every time they came up with a new pun or dad joke, they’d make a new sign. Some of the messages were really elaborate.
“I remember being bummed when they took down their snow day scene – I know, you should leave that up for an extra day,” Darren said.
When you’re in a place that’s usually pretty serious, this kind of thing really gets people laughing.
“We’d hear from the nurses, they’d say, ‘Have you heard what the other family’s bunny said?,” Jessica said.
“It was just so fun. You could see the joy that it brought both families. And everybody in the unit. All the staff members, all the families were interested. It was really, really sweet,” nurse Maiki Darnell said.
“The dad came up to me that night and was like, ‘Do you have any cardboard?’ And I was like ‘Let me go look for you, I have a feeling it’s for a good reason,” nurse Laura Koch added.
It may look like just a bunny and a bad joke, but to scared new parents, this was so much more.
“To have that connection with some other family that’s going through whatever it is that has them there, it was incredibly helpful,” Darren said.
Coronavirus restrictions kept the families from actually meeting in person until not too long ago, when they got together and forged what will likely be a lifelong friendship. They’ll need each other’s support, because Leni still has a hospital stay in front of her.
But she’ll be in good company, surrounded by a growing collection of stuffed bunnies. After all, if a couple of bunnies in a window can bring this much joy, then the more the merrier.