HAMMOND---Fourteen-year-old twins Gracie and Abbey Wainwright spent eight weeks in North Oaks Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
as babies, but were on hand at this year’s annual NICU Reunion to welcome their fellow “graduates.”
Dressed as elves, the twins “wanted to give back” to the NICU by helping out with the event, held Dec. 3, at the North Oaks Diagnostic Center. The free event was attended by about 200 former NICU patients and their family members who came out on a rainy, gloomy Saturday to enjoy holiday music and videos, storytelling, craft-making, face painting and refreshments provided by Chick-fil-A. In addition, each child had his or her photo taken with Santa Claus, and received a coloring book and crayons.
Sometimes, a baby may be born prematurely or with a health condition that requires admission to North Oaks Medical Center’s NICU. In these cases, the baby’s NICU stay may range from a few days to as long as 6 months.
The Wainwright twins, who are now freshmen at Albany High School, were born about 12 weeks prematurely. Gracie weighed 2 pounds, 2 ounces and Abbey weighed 2 pounds, 5 ounces. They have attended the event each year since their birth and wanted to assist Santa this year with the younger graduates.
It was the first NICU reunion for the Brown family, pictured at left, who attended the NICU event with 6-month-old Tinsley. She was born in June, 10 weeks early, weighing in at 4 pounds. Today, she weighs 11 pounds.
“The NICU was absolutely wonderful,” shares her mother, Tiffany, who visited with Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Scott Landry about the baby’s progress.
NICU Nurse Debbie McGinnis, RN, attended the event to “see my little patients.” Having worked on the unit for the past nine years, she greeted many familiar faces. Although the babies have grown and changed in appearance, she recognized their parents and was eager to hear about the progress her former patients have made. Below, right, Debbie visits with Brittany Carey and 3-year-old Deuce, who was in the NICU for 98 days following his premature birth.
“Because these babies often spend a long time in the hospital, it is natural for a strong bond to form between medical personnel and the families, sometimes becoming close friends,” according to Kirsten Riney, North Oaks Vice President of Patient Services.
“We love to celebrate the growth and good health of our patients,” Riney explains. “It’s a joyful way to start the holiday season with these families with whom we have shared so much.”
Along with the Wainwright twins, 33 North Oaks Health System staff members volunteered their personal time to make the event a success.
For more information about North Oaks’ NICU or any of the health system’s services for women and children, please call the North Oaks Business Development Department at (985) 230-6742