Preemie reunion brings Halloween happiness
The invitation said “Halloween Happiness.” And the 2014 reunion of graduates from the neonatal intensive care unit of the Children’s Hospital University of Illinois might have been one of the happiest parties in Chicago Saturday.
Hospital staff greeted kids they barely recognized, if at all — big, active healthy versions of the tiny patients they once cared for in the NICU.
“We remember the moms,” said nurse manager Shirley Belocura. “We don’t know how the kids look now.”
The NICU has provided intensive care to ill newborns since the early 1960s, including critically ill babies referred from other hospitals in Illinois.
Franklin Borre, 15, and his family chatted with retired nurse Bok Lee, who reminisced about his time in the NICU. Lee’s nametag read “Grandma” because she has remained in contact with many patients and families, attending their birthdays and other milestone celebrations.
“It’s great, seeing everyone and just being here,” said Franklin, looking around at the younger children dressed as superheroes and bumblebees.
Felando Bethel, 4, wearing a transformers costume, dismantled a balloon animal. Nearby his mother, Keshauna Fulton, remembered the six months he spent in NICU after he was born early — “23 weeks and five days,” she said, “1 pound, 3-point-5 ounces.”
“In the beginning it was very hard,” she said. “I kept thinking he’d be coming home every day.”
The party, made possible by donations from Discovery Labs, Friends of Pediatrics and hospital staff, had games, entertainment, pumpkin decorating and face painting.
But the real attraction was the opportunity to compare then and now.
“There’s deep roots and relationships,” said Jeanine Klaus, family support specialist for the NICU and intensive care nursery.