All treats, no tricks: Children have fun-filled afternoon at NICU reunion

October 31, 2018  //  FOUND IN: Michigan Medicine News,

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Earlier this month, hundreds of children, parents and Michigan Medicine team members came together to have a spook-tacular time celebrating Halloween — and so much more.

They all attended the annual Brandon Neonatal Intensive Care Unit reunion, where NICU “graduates” get to visit with the faculty and staff who helped save their lives.

“There is nothing better for our team members than to see or hold one of our former patients,” said Lisa O’Leary, clinical nurse supervisor for the NICU. “To see the progress they have made — it truly shows off the fruits of our labor.”

Strong bonds

The idea of a NICU reunion was hatched in 2003 by then-parent coordinator Brenda Miller-Slomovits. While it was originally held every summer, the event was eventually shifted to October and turned into a Halloween party in order to add an extra level of fun — complete with decorations, costumes and candy.

“Unlike many other areas at Mott, once a baby is discharged from the NICU, they do not return for follow-up visits,” O’Leary said. “So it’s often tough to stay in touch with the children and families we serve.”

That reality is especially difficult for employees on a unit where patients often spend days, weeks or even months in their care.

“We form incredibly strong bonds and friendships with our patients and their families because we’ve helped guide them through some of the most stressful times of their lives,” O’Leary said.

That’s why the reunion was created 15 years ago — and why more than 300 people show up each year to share a token of their appreciation for NICU faculty and staff.

A community effort

This year’s event — held at the Naz Church in Brighton — was one of the biggest ever. It included face-painting, balloon games, food, trick-or-treating and a photo booth.

Many of the decorations were created by NICU staff members and volunteers ensured that the event ran smoothly.

“The whole event showcases what a great community we have here at Michigan Medicine and in the surrounding area,” O’Leary said, pointing out that many of the NICU employees brought their own families to the event. “Patients become like family to us and we want to share that connection with our friends and relatives.”

One special patient attended this year’s event for the first time.

“We had a patient who was born 18 weeks early — which typically has a very low survival rate,” O’Leary said. “Seeing how well he is doing now brought a smile to everyone’s face.”

As did the entire event.

“Bringing kids back to health is what we do, and events like this remind us that our work is worth it,” O’Leary said. “We can’t wait until next October to do it all over again with even more graduates!”

Check out pictures from the NICU reunion in the photo gallery above.

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