One hundred and sixty days: That’s how long little Cullen Potter spent in the neonatal intensive care unit since he was born on March 14. His mother, Molli Potter, delivered Cullen at 22 weeks and was told he had a very slim chance of survival.
But Cullen beat the odds and was discharged on Aug. 21 from the NICU at the University of South Alabama Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Mobile, Alabama. And to mark the occasion, the NICU nursing staff gave Cullen a full graduation ceremony.
Watch the now five-month-old boy “graduate” from NICU in this video posted by WYFF News 4:
“Our families spend a lot of time here and we become family with each other,” Renee Rogers, the NICU’s nurse manager, told ABC News. “When it’s time to go home, it’s emotional not just for the families but for the staff as well.”
Cullen’s daytime nurse Jewel Barbour did the honors of carrying her young charge, who now weighs almost six pounds, down the hall as “Pomp and Circumstance” played in the background. The little boy also wore a cap and gown costume that his mother bought from a local Build-A-Bear store.
University of South Alabama Children’s and Women Hospital posted some behind-the-scenes shots from the graduation ceremony to its Instagram page:
Molli Potter experienced complications soon after becoming pregnant with Cullen, and spent three weeks at a hospital close to their home in Milton, Florida. Doctors had told Molli and Cullen’s father, Robert Potter, that their baby boy had a 2 percent chance of survival if he were born under 22 weeks, so they called more than a dozen hospitals to find one that would deliver Cullen.
They transferred to the University of South Alabama Children’s and Women’s Hospital, where Molli underwent an emergency Caesarian section. Now, five months later, the proud parents, who also share son Kayden, 7, get to bring Cullen home.
“It was the most joy I ever had in my life,” Robert told People. “It was the day that we were told would never happen just five months prior. They said this baby was not supposed to be born, this baby was not supposed to live, but there we were watching him being paraded up and down the hallway by his nurse.”
Congratulations to the Potter family, especially little Cullen. May this be the first of many milestones ahead!