Having a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit is never something to celebrate.
But graduating from the NICU was cause for celebration Sunday as families reunited with those who helped their babies become healthy enough to go home.
“This is a very good opportunity for nurses to see babies they helped,” said Tanya Patry, a marketing manager at Methodist Women's Hospital, 192nd Street and West Dodge Road.
Parents often form strong bonds with the NICU nurses and doctors who help care for their children, she said.
“Parents want to show off how their baby has grown.”
The reunion, now in its third year, brings together families and staff members, who swap stories about their experiences in the NICU and what's happened in the interim.
“Many of the babies stay here for many weeks or months,” Patry said. “These parents feel like these nurses and doctors are like family.”
Carrie Furley, a NICU nurse who initiated the event, said the medical staff members are part of the babies' families, and the babies are part of the hospital's family.
Parents were eager to show nurses and each other how their children, ranging in age from a month to a few years, had grown since leaving the NICU.
Danni Christensen of Omaha, mother to 1-month-old Micah, said she was overwhelmed by the positive experience at the hospital and was excited to return.
“It was incredible,” she said. “I knew he was in good hands, but I didn't realize how great.”
Michelle Olson of Firth, Neb., mother to twins Hazen and Savannah, echoed those praises.
“Not only are the facilities nice, but the staff was unbelievable,” said Olson, whose babies were born eight months ago.
She said she and her husband, Roger, formed strong relationships with the nurses.
“We came here nervous and left with a family,” she said.
Both mothers said they were glad the hospital sponsors a reunion.
“This is just the greatest thing ever,” Christensen said. “I think everyone here has been blessed.”
Olson said she plans to return annually, so her children can stay in touch with the nurses and doctors who played such an important role in the babies' first weeks.
“When my kids grow up, I want them to know what they went through and who helped them,” she said.