May 24, 2017 | Smiles were the order of the day as some of UAMS’ littlest former patients and their families returned for the sixth annual NICU Reunion.
About 250 people attended the May 13 event, including 90 graduates of UAMS’ neonatal intensive care unit. Participants noshed on pizza, listened to music, petted two friendly SPOT Therapy dogs and posed with such super heroes as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.
There was also an area where parents could get their car seats checked out and learn more about safe sleep practices.
“The NICU Reunion is one of my favorite events because it offers families the chance to return to UAMS for an enjoyable occasion and gives our nurses and doctors an opportunity to see that their former patients are now healthy and happy,” said Rebecca Smith, MNSc, clinical services manager in the NICU.
Amy Garrett, B.S.N, R.N., who helped plan the event, agreed.
“It’s meaningful for parents to be able to reflect on a scary, stressful part of their life in a positive way and share that joy and celebration with others who have been on the same NICU ‘rollercoaster’ with their babies,” she said. “It’s also important for the families who are currently in the midst of the NICU experience to be able to come down and see these former NICU babies healthy, growing and thriving. It gives hope to those who are feeling hopeless in the moment.”
Lynn Kilbourne, of North Little Rock, whose daughter Eleanor was 27 weeks and 2 days when she was born, said she came to the reunion so that the nurses and doctors who cared for Eleanor can see how well the 2-year-old is doing now.
“We were here 110 days, so the NICU staff not only took care of Eleanor, they also took care of us,” she said. “The staff was so good at comforting us during those hard days and giving us hope.”
Hailey Newell of Atkins attended the reunion with her husband, Jonathan, and sons Jaden and Sawyer. Jaden, 6, was born at 31 weeks old and spent about six weeks in the NICU.
“All of the doctors and nurses have a special place in our hearts,” said Newell. “They saved my baby when he wasn’t supposed to make it.”
She added that she enjoys seeing all of the other former NICU babies grow up. “I love seeing all of God’s little miracles in one room.”
Sandra Spencer, R.N., said she loves the chance to reunite with her former patients.
“We care for these babies for weeks, sometimes months, so we become really invested in their lives,” she said. “It is so fulfilling to see them growing up and looking so healthy.”