Infants who are born prematurely can spend anywhere from one day to six months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. In that time, parents can build a very strong bond with hospital staff.
This weekend UAMS will be reuniting some parents, their children and the staffers who cared for them.
Nurse Diane Rushin said she understands the sadness of parents who have to leave their babies in the unit.
“They are knocked off their feet because they’ve been expecting a perfect baby, the nursery ready at the right time, all their showers done, and all of the sudden they’re in the hospital and the babies (are) there way early,” Rushin said.
“So they have lots of fears, they have never seen babies this small, they don’t realize that it is possible for them to do well, and so they go through all the emotion, just like you are grieving the death of a loved one, they are grieving at the loss for this perfect baby.”
Rushin shared one of her experiences.
“I think the longest I’ve had a primary baby, I spent five months. And she went home 5-months-old weighing 12 lbs. She was acting like a 5-month the whole time. It was surprising to see such a small baby, trying to coo and looking around and be real engaged with you when you’re talking to her,” Rushin said.
Autumn Medler is a mother whose son Caleb was in the NICU for 84 days. In that time, she says she became really close with his primary nurse.
“One of the nurses, Loretta Black, is just like extended family, still to this day,” Medler said.
“I still sent her pictures of Caleb, she was here at his first birthday... they become a part of your family and they grow a bond with your children and it’s sad when you go home because you have spent so much time with these ladies. It’s exciting you get to bring your child home, but you also know that they have cared for and loved your children also. So, it’s kind of bitter sweet when you leave.”
UAMS’ NICU reunion is scheduled for Saturday.
“I encourage any of the families that have had to spent time in the NICU, if they have never been to one of the NICU reunions, to come out this year… (It) just gives you the opportunity to stay in touch with those that made such an impact on your life. Very trying time while you’re there, but they make it a pleasant experience,” Medler said.
The reunion will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Scimitar Shrine building, located at 1 Scimitar Circle, off the Interstate 30 Frontage Road in Little Rock.