Reunion draws littlest patients

Regional

September 26, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

It's not every day that a hospital parking garage plays host to a party.

But that's what happened yesterday afternoon at the Anne Arundel Medical Center's Sajak Pavilion, where former neonatal patients, their families and caregivers gathered for a reunion.

Hundreds of kids attended the party, an annual event that brings together now-healthy babies, toddlers and children and the nurses who cared for them as infants born prematurely and in need of serious medical care.

The day of food, games, prizes and music was the ninth such celebration for the hospital, which held its first event after its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit opened in 1995.

"I think it's great for the nurses," said Karen Doyle, executive director of women's and children's services at the hospital. "They get to see the good outcomes a year or two later - it's really rewarding."

Doyle said the staff at the facility's NICU cares for about 500 babies each year. The number of infants seen there is usually about 10 percent of the hospital's annual deliveries, added Doyle, who said the unit has helped some of the state's most fragile newborns, some delivered as early as 23 weeks into pregnancy.

Many of the parents at yesterday's reunion said they came to show appreciation for the staff's medical expertise.

Jennifer and C.L. Dadds of Church Hill said they drove from Queen Anne's County to express thanks to the nurses - and to show them how well their 9-month-old daughter, Madison, has fared since being discharged from the unit in January.

The little girl was born three months early and weighed less than 2 pounds, said Jennifer Dadds.

"She was so young that her eyes were still fused shut. She really looked like a skinned squirrel," she said.

Yesterday, Madison was robust, flashing big silver-blue eyes and wowing many with her progress.

Caregivers including nurse Cynthia Mueller said seeing those strides - the "milestones" - was the best part of the day.

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For her, the reunion revealed the marvels of medicine and the strengths of human bonds.

"We see miracles every day here ... they're like family," she said.

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