Smiles filled the Porter Regional Hospital community room today as they hosted their annual NICU Graduate Party/Reunion. Parents of children ranging in age from one to twenty two years old gathered together with the nurses of the NICU to celebrate the amazing progress of their children.
Since the opening of the NICU in 1977 at Porter, the reunion has been held every year as an opportunity for parents to see and reconnect with each other, their babies, and of course, the wonderful nurses they have built relationships with. Spirits were so high at the gathering today that not even the last minute cancellation by Santa could bring down anyone's mood!
The conversation and camaraderie filling the room was enough to keep everyone smiling, laughing, and having a great time while also enjoying a buffet of tasty food. Director of the Women and Children's Health Pavilion Elaine Johnson-Merkel could not be more excited to talk about the gathering. "We've had up to 200 people come, adults and children included, and almost always have at least 100. These families get to know each other through the NICU, and the nurses practically become a part of their families! I just got to attend the graduation of one of my primaries last summer, so you definitely see the bond that comes within the unit that truly is lifelong."
These bonds were easy to observe across the entire room. Nurses walked around from family to family holding "their babies" as if they really were their own, grinning from ear to ear. RN Kerri Hanson shared her personal appreciation for the event and the opportunity to work with all the "graduates" present. "My favorite part, honestly, has to be just watching these kids grow and make daily strides. Then, when we get to see them in this kind of atmosphere once they've been home and are growing with their happy families, it's such an inspiration to know that we can make a difference in their lives."
The nurses were not the only ones grateful for the opportunity to see all the families, though, as the families themselves could not have been more thrilled to be there as well! Walking around, one could observe conversation between parents that have known each other since spending time in the NICU, or parents that were just meeting each other for the first time at the event, swapping stories about their own children's experiences.
Parents Kristen and Trevor Bruss, present with their beautiful son Cooper, who spent 37 days in the NICU, shared their appreciation for their nurses from the NICU and the opportunity to gather and celebrate at the reunion. "This (the reunion) is awesome! To be able to come back and see the people who made Cooper healthy and who got him home to us is awesome and we're just so thankful. Seeing so many people who had similar situations and had the same thing happen to them is pretty amazing as well. We literally have our 'NICU Buddies' who are fantastic to talk to and be able to relate with."
The relationships born through the NICU certainly are lifelong ties that are inspirational to witness first hand, and the reunion Porter chooses to host year after year is a testament to the genuine nature of all the amazing people who work with these equally amazing families.