8-year-old NICU volunteer brings hope, inspiration to parents - FOX 35 News Orlando

8-year-old NICU volunteer brings hope, inspiration to new parents

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At just 8 years old, Maya Tharoo is the youngest volunteer in the neonatal intensive care unit at Winnie Palmer Hospital -- and arguably their most inspirational one.

Seconds after meeting families and their new babies, Maya has the entire room smiling.

"She's really cute," Maya says of a new baby.

Maya was born just like the babies she's visiting: premature and tiny.

"One pound 14 ounces. And I stayed in the hospital for 114 days," she says.

When interacting with Maya, a happy, healthy, brilliant little girl, she dazzles parents and babies alike.

"She's very happy looking at you. She'll be like you some day," a new mom tells Maya.

Visiting the NICU has been something she has been doing since she was 5. She enjoys talking with the mothers and fathers and doting over their babies.

Without realizing it, Maya has parents forgetting about the tubes and monitors hooked up and helping their premature babies breathe and eat.

"Open your eyes, huh?" Maya asks a tiny baby, who then sneaks a peek at her.

Dr. Gregor Alexander, a neonatologist, says as much as the babies need time, technology and medicine to help them grow strong, staying positive is just as important.

"Taking care of a preemie is a roller-coaster type of course. As bad as some days and nights are, we look at the end line, the finish line," Gregor says.

That's why he loves it when Maya joins him on his rounds every month -- she's living proof there is a finish line.

Recently, Maya met new parents Rebecca and Roberto in the NICU, who had twins on November 20.

Maya talked about how small she was and showed them pictures of herself from when she was a preemie.

Rebecca and Roberto's baby Elena has doubled her weight since birth, but her brother didn't make it.

"It's so hard... especially with her brother not being with us any longer," Rebecca says.

Maya didn't know that, but she somehow sensed it was time to lighten the mood. So she showed Rebecca her first baby dress.

"Can I hold it? Oh my gosh, it's so tiny," Rebecca said.

"Books are one thing, but actually meeting people and seeing their stories is another."

Meeting Maya "gave us more hope than I could ever imagine. It was almost unreal to see someone so small grow into such a beautiful little girl. It gives me lots of hope and strength."

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