It was all smiles at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital’s Fifth Annual NICU Reunion on Saturday. Children were chasing one another, falling into the ball pit and listening to Snow White read a story.
Life was good. But it wasn’t always easy.
Many of the children started out in Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the unit that specializes in caring for premature, sick-at-birth babies.
“Some of them were two or three pounds,” said Sally McGann, director of maternal child services at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.
“They’ve grown. They’re walking, they’re running, they’re talking. Now, they’re beautiful, their families are beautiful.”
When the NICU opened its doors in 2012, 30 people were in attendance at the first reunion. This year, about 600 people made reservations to attend Saturday’s event.
Amber Muraro brought her entire family to the reunion. Two-year-old Vivienne, Muraro’s daughter, was in the special unit for about a week.
“To go there in a hospital thinking you’re going to bring home a baby and you leave with an empty car seat, that’s really difficult,” Muraro said.
Muraro described how challenging it was to leave the hospital without her daughter, but the nurses and faculty in Henry Mayo’s NICU supported her child and her family.
“They’re like a stand-in mother,” she said.
She was not the only parent to share kind words about the staff at the hospital. Vivian O’Keefe’s first-born daughter was sent to the NICU soon after she was born.
“It was actually a godsend for us,” O’Keefe said. “We had supportive staff watching her 24/7 and were teaching us along the way as well.”
The event featured, food, games, princesses and allowed families to meet others with similar experiences. Each “class” of babies who graduated from the NICU took pictures with their families during the event.
“The NICU in Henry Mayo is fulfilling a community need,” McGann said.