NICU Reunion Shows Progress for Maryland's Tiniest Patients

For immediate release: March 30, 2015


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The University of Maryland Children’s Hospital recently hosted the NICU Reunion with former NICU families and neonatal intensive care unit staff and physicians. This biannual celebration provides the chance for NICU graduates and their families to reunite with caregivers who supported them during their time at the Children’s Hospital.

“The NICU Reunion is an event loved by all our NICU doctors and staff,” said Brenda Hussey-Gardner, PhD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director, NICU Follow-Up Program at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. “We always look forward to seeing our babies grown up, and sharing hugs with the families who worked so hard to help them succeed. We build lifelong bonds with our families in the NICU because emotions run so high when their little one is hospitalized.”

Invitations for the NICU Reunion are sent to families of babies who were in the NICU during the past five years, plus any families who attended previous NICU reunions, like the Boerners. Marci and Joey Boerner have attended the past five reunions since their twins, Grant and Garrett were born. Their story is like so many other families who wind up in the NICU at the University of Maryland Children’s HospitalBoerner twin babies

At 22 weeks pregnant, Marci learned she was in preterm labor during a routine pregnancy appointment. Despite taking medications to delay delivery, identical twins Grant and Garrett were born a few weeks later, each weighing less than four pounds and requiring intense care in the NICU.

During the weeks following the babies’ births, Marci and Joey visited the NICU every day, and it wasn’t long until the staff became like family. “The staff was simply excellent,” Marci recalled. “I still send them pictures of the twins and Christmas cards, and the boys are always excited to see Dr. Viscardi,” who oversaw the NICU during the majority of their stay.  As Grant and Garrett prepare to turn 13, the Boerner family is excited to reconnect with the NICU team involved in making those 13 years possible.Boerner twin boys

Besides the Boerners, more than 350 guests attended this year’s beach-themed NICU Reunion. Fraternity brothers from Sig Ep at the University of Maryland College Park have played a major role in the NICU Reunion since 2009, spending months planning kid-friendly activities to engage the children. They often have to consider how to adapt games for children with special needs, which can be common in babies who required NICU care.

“We tried to keep the games pretty simple (bean bag toss, pin the tail, bowling, etc.) so that all children will be able to participate,” said Vish Tatagari, Sig Ep co-community service chair and former NICU intern. “The main game we had to consider for children with special needs was the Sea Escape obstacle course. In this we incorporated a balance beam, crawl-through tunnel, and scooters. At each "obstacle" there will be either a SigEp brother or physical therapist on hand to assist each child as needed. This will allow all children an equal opportunity to participate.” 

This year marks the first time sisters from Kappa Alpha Theta at UM College Park will join Sig Ep by volunteering at the NICU Reunion and making decorations. 

The collaborative effort for the NICU Reunion is a reflection of the team approach that families experience at the NICU. A new NICU is currently under construction with plans to provide an even better experience and environment for babies and families later this year. Learn more about plans for the new NICU.