To Mandy Emedi and Patty Thurman, The Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit staff is like family.
When Emedi’s twin daughters, Anna and Brooklyn, were born about six weeks early, she found the NICU staff “amazing.”
“You give birth to babies and envision yourself two or three days later going home. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, leave without my babies,” she said. “The NICU took such good care of not just the girls, but of us as a family. They really made us feel a part of the babies’ care.”
NICU Parent Encouragement and Support Group coordinator Patty Thurman remembers when her twin daughters, Grace Ann and Addyson, were in the NICU.
“They were born at 32 weeks. Grace Ann was my most sick child. She was on ventilators and had bowel and intestinal problems. They had to watch her real close,” she said. “Most parents don’t know they’re going to the NICU. You don’t put that on your birth plan. There’s a flood of emotion.
“While you’re in the NICU, you get to know the nurses. They talk on your level,” she continued. “You get on a personal level with them. It makes you feel better about the situation your child will be in.”
Both women will attend the fifth NICU Reunion, which gives parents and former patients the opportunity to reunite with physicians, nurses staff members and other parents who were involved with their child’s hospital stay.
The free reunion, which will feature food, games and fun, will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 9 at The Medical Center Auditorium. Registration is preferred, but not required. Parents of former NICU patients can submit photos by Wednesday for a slideshow. For more information, call 796-2144 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
George Miller, a registered nurse in the NICU and nursery, said this year’s reunion theme is “Under the Sea.”
“We’ve had a barnyard and beach theme for the kids who come back and visit. It makes it fun for them,” he said. “It’s fun for the kids, parents and nurses. There are a lot of smiles.”
The reunion has drawn about 300 people over the past couple of years, nearly maxing out the capacity of the facility, Miller said.
“We’ve frequently got twins who are born premature and stay with us for a while,” he said. “The longer they stay the more they get to know the staff.”
“We had the same nurses for several days at a time, so you really get to know them,” she said. “I would wake up and call in the middle of the night – about 4 a.m. – and never would the nurses would be bothered by it.”
Emedi said she sometimes runs into nurses outside of the hospital who still ask about her daughters, who are now nearly 4 years old.
“This is our fourth reunion. At the first reunion we were so proud we had gotten a good start with them. They showed us how to feed them, how to bathe them,” she said. “It was a good learning process since I’d never really been around babies. I know people who say they can’t wait to get back to the reunion.”
Thurman’s babies are now 4 years old and “doing well with no issues or problems at all,” she said.
“The nurses get so excited to see your child again because they took care of this child when they were sick. To me, being a NICU nurse is an incredible job. They do miracles,” she said. “When they see a happy child and happy parents, they feel good. You can’t praise them enough. You don’t just come back the first year. You come back year after year.”
Miller said the people who work with the babies enjoy the reunions as much as the parents.
“We put a lot of passion in our work. It’s quite the payoff to see them a couple years later and see they’re doing so well,” he said. “It’s a thrill to know you played a little part in their success.”