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St. Joseph Medical Center caring for tiniest Ravens fans

NICU unit, and its patients, all decked out purple pride

By Jim Joyner, jjoyner@patuxent.com

7:11 PM EST, January 19, 2012

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This week St. Joseph Medical Centerin Towson can make the claim of having the "tiniest Ravens fan in the world" — make that exactly 1 pound, 13 ounces, according to Nancy Sumpter, a nurse practitioner at the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Over the past several days, the NICU has been giving tender loving care to a tiny wave of new Ravens' faithful, wrapping each in purple blankets and caps.

In fact, crib linens are lavender and the babies are wearing tiny purple booties and onesies, too — all courtesy of Sumpter, who proclaims without hesitation, "I have two passions — my newborns and my Ravens."

The purple parade of infants started several days ago, when Sumpter gathered up the linens from the unit, took them home and dyed them. It came out kind of lavender, she said, so she hit 'em again harder — three loads of "dark purple."

She also spent about $100 at Party City to start the babies off right, buying bibs, caps and other items to dress them in support of the home team.

On Thursday morning, she and other nurses in the unit — dressed in the Ravens jerseys and gear they've been wearing all week — decorated the wing with streamers, balloons and other purple paraphernalia.

"Everybody chipped in," she said. "The whole hospital is purple. It's very contagious."

"Ravens fever has swept throughSt. Joseph Medical Center, just as it has through all of Baltimore," said Vivienne Stearns-Elliott, director of media relations for St. Joseph, in an email comment.

"The nurses loved decorating the NICU, and the NICU parents have really appreciated it," Stearns-Elliott said. "We are a community hospital, and we are rallying around our community team."

Sumpter said 10 babies have been given the royal purple treatment, including one whose dad was sporting a Joe Flacco-like fu manchu.

"It's been funny," she said. "(Some of the) parents are huge Ravens fans — two families even brought their own Ravens stuff."

But at least one family, she said, seemed confused and a bit oblivious why everything was purple — instead of the more traditional pink or blue.

"They have no idea of what football is," she said.

Sumpter, a Perry Hall resident and a nurse since 1974, has worked at St. Joseph just since this past March. She previously worked at Franklin Square Hospital, she said, and decked it out in purple during the Ravens last Super Bowl run in 2000-01.

She said that along with the fun she and her co-workers at St. Joseph have sharing fan passion with the NICU families, there's also a practical benefit from the Ravens mania, particularly for moms and dads of premature infants.

"Some of the babies here are sick, so their parents can be worried, and a little down in the dumps," Sumpter said. "In some way, I think, this helps pull some of them out of that. It's cheers them up."

Sumpter is, of course, the greatest cheerleader, and a huge Ravens fan — she met Ray Lewis earlier this year but was mortified when he called her "ma'am."

She goes to many games, but won't be making the trip to New England this week.

"I blew my money going to the Jacksonville game. Can you believe that?" she said.

Still, she has a score prediction — 27-23 — and also has a request that involves the Ravens defense and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

"I want our defense to take 'pretty boy' down," she said.

And that's a nurse talking.