LAFAYETTE, La. - "Fred" enjoyed a spa day for his first day on the job. On the second, he zip-lined in to work. On the third, "Fred" dressed as a doctor and kept a close eye on his patient. Day number four saw "Fred" feeling like a Grinch.
Allyson Tucker, 25, of Lafayette, and Coby Richard, 27, of Duson, never know what "Fred" will do when he comes to work each day in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Women's & Children's Hospital.
"Fred" is the name Allyson and Coby gave to their Elf on the Shelf, who watches over their son, Tucker, 4 months, born three months premature on Oct. 19. Tucker weighed 1 pound 4 ounces and measured 10 inches at birth. Today, he is 2 pounds 14 ounces and measures 14 inches.
Allyson and Coby credit Tucker's constant progress to the love and attention given by his "NICU family" - the nurses and staff that care for him each day. It's the NICU team who stage "Fred's" daily adventures.
"His adventures are very elaborate," Allyson said. "When Tucker gets older he may ask, 'Why was 'Fred' so active when I was younger.' I'll just blame his lack of energy and creativity in coming years on 'Fred' getting older."
"Fred's" adventures began a few weeks ago when Allyson and Coby saw the Elf on the Shelf book and doll at a local book store. That night, they gave him a name and tucked him in the crib with Tucker. "Fred" sat up and read the book to Tucker as he slept. The next morning, the couple arrived to find "Fred" having a spa day for his first day on the job - complete with cucumber slices on his eyes.
"Everybody in the NICU comes up with the different ideas. Even Cardiopulmonary is helping out," said Heidi Bourgeois, a Registered Nurse in the NICU involved with the project and Tucker's care. "The first few ideas came from Pinterest. After that, the creative ideas just started to flow."
"Fred's" daily adventures has made the family's time in the NICU a little easier, Allyson said.
"We're so busy trying to be here with Tucker and keeping things going at home. The NICU staff has become our family," she said. "We can't wait to get here each day and see what 'Fred's' up to next."