A special delivery arrived Tuesday at Winthrop-University Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
Nearly 13 years after they were born prematurely at the Mineola hospital, Old Westbury twins Ali and Hannah Ostad, 12, returned to the NICU pushing a cart carrying four large containers filled with new baby clothes for preemies delivered Tuesday.
With their Bat Mitzvah approaching, the girls’ parents, Michael and Alonna Ostad, suggested they perform a good deed, or “mitzvah,” to commemorate their transition into adulthood.
“It marks the time when they are more mature and need to become responsible citizens,” said Alonna Ostad, 42. “It’s not just about a party, a service in the temple or getting gifts. It’s important to give back.”
The Ostads can connect with the struggles premature babies and their families face. While carrying the twins, Alonna Ostad started going into labor on Jan. 30, 2000, while only in her 21st week. She was rushed to Winthrop, where she remained on bed rest for 10 weeks.
“I stayed there in bed and was not allowed to put a foot on the floor until they were born,” she said.
The babies arrived nine weeks early on April 19, and remained in the NICU for more than a month. Hannah, who weighed 3 pounds 12 ounces at birth, suffered a grade 2 bleed in her brain, and Ali, who weighed 3 pounds 9 ounces, was diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis, a condition that affects the intestines, according to Dr. Renu Aggarwal, Winthrop’s physician director of neonatology.
“We had a lot of scares,” Alonna Ostad said. “I was worried and depressed ... The last thing I wanted to do was go to a store and look for preemie clothes.”
The girls have heard this story many times and decided to share it with the 200 guests they invited to their Bat Mitzvah. They mailed each one a letter and asked for donations of onesies, caps, socks and blankets for Winthrop’s preemies. By Tuesday, they had collected more than 300 items.
“We asked for one or two items and everyone sent like 10,” said Ali.
Hannah said, “It was a such a good feeling. We felt like everyone really cared.”
Prior to the girls’ donation, the NICU had only a small collection of used preemie clothing, according to Barbara Slone, the unit’s chief nurse practitioner. Parents will now be able select new outfits from the bins for their babies and take them home. This simple act will give stressed parents a small sense of control and shift their focus toward the day their babies can leave the hospital, she said.
“The clothing helps the parents connect to their children,” Slone said. “They are very small when they come here and some have tremendous challenges, so to humanize them in some way is really nice. It makes the parents start to feel like these are their children who are going to come home with them.”
Ali and Hannah hope they inspire others to donate to the NICU.
“We just really feel proud,” Ali said. “You see where it’s going ... and feel like you made a difference in their lives.”