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Pete’s Perspective: NICU Reunion - A Tribute to Hope and Healing

Pete’s Perspective:  NICU Reunion - A Tribute to Hope and Healing

Media Contact: Karina Rusk

The impact of advanced technology and quality care during challenging birth situations is undeniable. Yet, at its heart are worried parents and a compassionate team of medical experts focused on helping these young patients survive and thrive.

The experience of having a child in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is one that forges a bond like few others. For nearly 20 years, Salinas Valley Health has hosted an annual reunion for graduates of its NICU. First started by a small group of NICU nurses, under the leadership of the late Chris Davis, RN, “graduates” from our NICU unit and their families return to reconnect with the nurses, physicians, therapists and staff who cared for them. With 119 NICU graduates joining this year’s event, held on June 24, the gathering is both a celebration of survival and a time to reflect on the strength and fragility of life.

Salinas Valley Health is proud of the Norman P. Andresen, MD Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Operated in partnership with Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, it helps local babies beat the odds. Getting the right care at the right time for these fragile babies makes all the difference in their future development.

Every family attending the reunion has a child or children who spent five days or more in our NICU. The chance to reconnect is rewarding for parents and medical center staff alike. NICU families are different because their birth is often traumatic, and the NICU admission is unexpected. During prolonged hospitalization, as is often the case with premature infants, this is especially true.

Serving in a NICU can be emotionally challenging for healthcare professionals. In many cases, they are not just taking care of critically ill babies, but the emotional needs of parents. The opportunity to see their former young patients now growing and with personalities is immensely gratifying.

The pandemic forced a pause of in-person reunions for several years. The 2023 return to a gathering complete with a diaper derby, bounce houses, face painting, lunch catered by Panda Express and the always-popular petting zoo was a time of great joy for the nearly 400 guests in attendance.

We are grateful for the many generous donors to the Salinas Valley Health Foundation Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Program who help make this annual celebration possible, and to community and staff volunteers who give of their time to support the success of this special event.

Our NICU patients’ families make deep connections through trust in their babies’ caregivers. That lifelong bond was evident clearly during this tribute to hope and healing.

Be safe and be well.

– Pete

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