Families of babies who got a fragile start in life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH) were invited to an NCH NICU Carnival/Reunion to reconnect with the staff and hospital. Babies who spent greater than 10 days in the NICU between June 2016 and June 2017 along with their families participated in a free carnival featuring games, face painting, a magician, photo booth, food and a large cake to celebrate. The babies, including the smallest preemie ever born in the hospital’s history – Kacie Mormance – and her twin sister Naomi, got to visit with the doctors and nurses who cared for them.
"Taking care of babies that are critically ill in the NICU is often a stressful task for both the families and the staff,” says Neonatologist Athena Patrianakos-Hoobler, M.D., who spearheaded the event. "The NCH NICU carnival reunion was a way to bring back our NICU graduates and their families in a fun and joyful environment.”
Among others, Neonatologist Joel Fisher, M.D., welcomed the crowd and cut the cake with Catherine Martin, BSN, R.N., NCH Clinical Nurse Manager, NICU & Lactation Services, who referred to the carnival as “a joyful event where families could share their journeys and reminisce with the team.”
"My favorite part was seeing all the hugs, smiles and laughter as the families and NICU team greeted and interacted with one another,” Martin says. “It was very rewarding for the team to see the progress and growth the babies have made. Each baby and family has a unique and special story.”
Games included bowling, floating rubber duckies, a tin can toss, bag toss, blow pops and an obstacle course. The carnival was run by volunteers and staff members on the hospital grounds.
Even after NICU babies go home, their relationship with NCH continues to be close, as staff – including a neonatologist, nurse, and occupational, speech and physical therapists – continue to assess their development six months through age 2 at the NCH Neonatal Development Follow-up Clinic.
"It is amazing and rewarding to see how far the graduates have come, despite how difficult the first stages of their lives were,” Dr. Patrianakos-Hoobler says. “Seeing the graduates and their families return with smiling faces gives us such satisfaction and makes what we do day-to-day worthwhile.”