More than 200 parents and children filled the Community Room at Porter Regional Hospital for the annual NICU Graduate Christmas Party held this past Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. An annual tradition since the opening of the NICU in 1977, the gathering provides an opportunity for former NICU patients and their families to reunite with Porter nurses and staff and celebrate healthy lives.
“These families get to know each other through the NICU and the nurses become a part of their families,” shared Elaine Johnson-Merkel, director of the Women and Children’s Pavilion at Porter. “The bond that is developed between our staff and the patients in our unit is lifelong. To watch these children grow up is truly a gift.”
Patient families were grateful for the opportunity to celebrate with Porter associates. “The staff here is amazing,” said Crystal Poradzisz, whose daughter Gabriella is a recent graduate of the NICU. “I had an incredible experience during my time here, 82 days with the best teachers in the world. They took amazing care of us here and helped prepare me for life at home.”
The celebration brought together recent graduates from Porter’s NICU with those who were patients years ago. Ruth Rinchak and three of her four children, quadruplets in Porter’s NICU 22 years ago, make a point to attend the celebration as often as they can. Her daughter, Cate, expressed her appreciation for the party. “This event allows us to maintain connections with people who had such a big impact so early in our lives,” she said. “It’s great to come back each year and celebrate with those who helped us at the beginning.”
Porter’s Advanced Level II+ NICU cares for infants of any gestational age, providing specialized expertise and equipment needed to care for and stabilize high-risk newborns. The NICU offers 14 individual and private rooms specially equipped to help control environmental stimuli, such as lighting and noise, to promote healing. Each room provides a spacious and comfortable environment for parents to stay and learn more about taking care of their new baby before they go home.