It was a baby bonanza at the University of Maryland Medical Center as dozens of children returned for a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) reunion. These babies, toddlers and young children — many of them twins, triplets and even one set of quadruplets — who spent their first weeks of life in the medical center’s NICU, came to celebrate with the physicians, nurses and other staff who cared for them. Approximately 300 people, including former NICU babies and their families, attended this year’s reunion.
“We are so excited to see how much the children have grown since we cared for them,” says Joan Treacy, R.N., patient care services manager for the NICU. “Some of these children weighed less than two pounds when they were born, and now we get to see them a year or two later when they are walking and talking – it’s amazing. The reunion is also a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with families who have spent weeks or even months with us.”
The theme for this year’s reunion was safari celebration, and it offered many activities for the kids. The event was co-sponsored by the University of Maryland Medical Center and the University of Maryland, College Park chapter of the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon. The fraternity’s members raised funds for the reunion, and ran the various activity stations, which included crafts, face painting, story time and safari-themed games. Say Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity member Brian Baturin, “It’s a great way of giving back to the community. It’s really an homage to the NICU staff and saying thank you to them from the parents.”
All the activities were tailored to suit the NICU grads, who range in age from infants to five years old. The children also played games and interacted with the doctors – faculty members of the University of Maryland School of Medicine – who once treated them.
It’s a really a time to get together with the families and children who were in our NICU to celebrate their lives and the beautiful children they’ve grown into, says Dr. Brenda-Hussey Gardner, NICU Follow-up Director. “It’s a great time for the staff to see the fruits of their labor and the work they’ve put forth, side by side with the family while they were taking care of that tiny baby.”
Dr. Cynthia Bearer, Division Chief of Neonatology says the event provides “a chance for families to come together and see how other families have dealt with the experience of being in our NICU. It gives us a great opportunity as the nurses and the doctors that took care of them to see how wonderful they all turned out.”
As a level IIIC NICU, the highest possible level of care, the University of Maryland Medical Center treats some of the area’s smallest and most fragile infants. The 40-bed unit provides comprehensive evaluation and treatment for premature babies born as early as 23 weeks of gestation. Infants born this early face many health concerns, including respiratory and heart problems, vision troubles, intestinal inflammation, jaundice and delayed growth and development. The NICU also cares for full-term infants who have serious health problems or require surgery shortly after birth. The University of Maryland Medical Center admits more than 500 infants to the NICU each year.