NICU Celebration Reunites Patients and Caregivers

Northwestern Medicine
News October 17, 2019
They were once the tiniest babies in the hospital, but some are now taller than their parents. Over 150 former Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) patients and their families gathered Sunday, October 6 at the Danada House in Wheaton for a NICU Reunion. The NICU grads, who range in age from 3 months to 17 years old, celebrated their progress with the staff that cared for them through the first days of life. Participants enjoyed games, food and dancing -- but it was mostly about reconnecting with the neonatologists, nurses, staff, and other NICU parents who helped them through the most difficult days of their lives.

“To see our patients -- who used to be very small, premature infants -- growing, entering school and playing sports is really exciting,” said NICU Clinical Director Melissa Hinshaw, DNP, NNP, RNC-NIC. “This year’s event was our largest ever with more than 700 guests.”

Among the participants was 15-year-old Peter Dioro, of Naperville. He was just 2 pounds 6 ounces at birth. The Naperville North sophomore spent 217 days in the NICU after being born 12 weeks early. He was one of the first infants in the Central DuPage Hospital NICU to undergo bubble continuous positive airway pressure, a non-invasive ventilation technique for newborns with infant respiratory distress syndrome. Now, the healthy teenager has aspirations to become a lawyer.

A recent article in the journal Advances in Neonatal Care highlighted the benefits of NICU reunions including decreasing isolation for parents, and boosting staff morale.

Over 8500 patients have been treated in the Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital Level III NICU since it began operations 21 years ago. The NICU has grown from 12 to 35 beds, been remodeled twice and added many support specialties. It’s the only NICU in the western suburbs with full-time onsite pediatric surgical support; the first non-academic NICU in the Chicago area with a transport team; and the only non-academic NICU in the U.S. with a Ronald McDonald House.
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