Premature Babies and Families Reunite with NICU Caregivers
Northwestern Memorial Hospital September 26, 2012
CHICAGO, IL – When Sarah Heaven and her husband Tim toured the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Northwestern Medicine Prentice Women’s Hospital as part of a birthing class, they didn’t pay special attention to it. Sarah’s pregnancy was complication-free until one of her twin daughters ruptured her amniotic sac. Much to their surprise, the Heavens’ daughters, Maya and Thea, were born at 29 weeks gestation and weighed just 2 pounds, 12 ounces each. On Saturday, September 22, the Heaven Family reunited with physicians, nurses and caregivers who cared for their twins at the first reunion of the NICU Family Support® Program*.
“Our experience was unexpected,” Sarah said. “So much of what we went through in the NICU wasn’t thought of as normal, but became our normal.”
The Heavens were joined by 200 attendees at the event, which was hosted by Northwestern Memorial Hospital and March of Dimes*. NICU graduates, their parents and families, and NICU medical staff who had care for the premature infants during their hospital stay reunited for a day filled with hugs and laughter. The guests enjoyed folk music, arts and crafts and had many meaningful conversations with the caregivers that brought them into the world.
“It’s wonderful to see how much the kids have grown,” said Kerri Machut, MD, neonatologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and instructor in pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “You become forever bonded with these families because of the large role you play in such a critical point in their lives. For so many of them, their stay in the NICU was not something they planned, and it’s important to help them find moments of joy when they are going through a tough time.”
The NICU Family Support® Program, created by March of Dimes, provides information and comfort to families during both the NICU hospitalization, the transition home, and in the tragic event of a newborn’s death. Northwestern Memorial Hospital's program is the only one of its kind in Illinois. Since 2009, more than 3,000 families at Prentice have been assisted through education sessions, literature and support specifically designed for parents of premature infants.
Thankful for the experience and care they received at Northwestern Memorial, the Heaven twins, who are now three years old, show no signs of their premature birth. The girls, according to their parents, are aware of their story and enjoy looking at photos and reenacting their first few weeks of life.
“Maya and Thea love to play NICU babies with their dolls; swaddling them and using a breathing mask for the smaller toys,” Sarah said. “We know the girls were in the finest possible hands to get them off to a good start. Not a day goes by that we don’t think about the Prentice NICU; it is a truly marvelous place.”
The Northwestern Memorial Hospital Renee Schine Crown NICU has 86 bassinets, making it one of the largest NICU’s in the country. It is a Level III infant trauma center, serving thousands of critically ill newborns annually.
Learn more about the March of Dimes NICU Family Support® Program*.