The Purple Butterfly Project

Butterflies have a very special meaning here at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. While in flight, they represent optimism; a perfect symbol for a healing environment. Now a purple butterfly with a very special meaning can be found on the doors of some of our tiniest patients.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital is taking part in the Purple Butterfly Project, a worldwide initiative to help bring awareness to the loss of a child born in a set of multiple babies. Beginning this month, a purple butterfly will be placed on the door of patients who were part of a multiples birth but sadly, one or more of the siblings did not survive. The butterfly is present to celebrate the life of the patient’s lost sibling and to bring awareness of the loss for staff and other families.

The Story Behind the Purple Butterfly

In April 2016, Mille Smith and Lewis Cann gave birth to identical twin girls, Callie and Skye at 30 weeks gestation. Skye was born with a neural tube defect known as anencephaly and sadly passed away just three hours after her birth. Because she was born premature, Callie would spend some time in the NICU before she could go home with her parents.

It was during their NICU stay that Smith and Cann were inspired to create the purple butterflies. They found that as the weeks went by, their nurses stopped talking about Skye, and families around them were unaware of their loss. At one point, they were on the unit with three other families who had twins. One mother, having had a particularly overwhelming morning, made a comment in passing to Smith that she was “so lucky” she did not have twins. Smith broke down. That moment is what defines the Purple Butterfly Project. Smith wanted to ensure that not only would that not happen again; she also wanted to make sure other parents were spared a similar experience.

Smith chose the purple butterfly as her symbol for a multiples loss because she saw the butterfly as a symbol of children who have “flown away” from this earth and purple was a color that could be representative of both boy and girl babies.

While Smith’s butterflies started in the United Kingdom, they are quickly spreading across the globe and we are honored to support our families with this initiative. Read more about Callie and Skye’s story, here.

Learn more about the research behind Purple Butterfly Project, here. To learn more about Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Facilities, click here.

Marissa Larouere
Marissa Larouere is the Program Manager in the C4B NICU. She graduated with her BSN from Case Western Reserve University and received her Masters’ in Business Administration from American Intercontinental University. She has been at Nationwide Children’s Hospital for the past 9 years. She is a member of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses and volunteers for Lifeline of Ohio. She is dedicated to continuously improving family-centered care. She is married to her wife Emily Larouere and they have one daughter Mary Sullivan.
Sarah Hastie
Sarah Hastie BSN, RNC-NIC is an RN Clinical Leader in the C4B NICU. She received her BSN from Capital University in 2006, and has been an RN in the NICU for 10 years. Sarah’s passion is to help our NICU be the greatest in the world—to provide outstanding care to our babies, to provide support and education to our nurses, and to empower our families—so that every baby has the best quality of life possible. She is a board member and volunteer coordinator for The Columbus Diaper Coalition a non-profit organization that provides diapers to Central Ohio babies and families in need.

4 thoughts on “The Purple Butterfly Project

  1. Gloria Thompson, RN, BSN Assistant Nurse Mgr NICU/Nursery/Pediatrics on said:

    I’m unclear on how the rest of the parents are to know what the butterfly means.
    If we tell them are we not violating HIPPA?

    1. Diane Lang on said:

      Hi there! The Purple Butterfly Project is a world-wide initiative. Every parent who has lost a multiple receives a handout regarding this project. They are given the option to “opt out” if they don’t want the symbol on the outside of their room.

  2. Every Chirstmas, we make a donation in honor of our (twin) daughter that was stillborn. Is there anyway to donate directly to this project at NCH?

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