By Melissa Frey
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — Families of all ages joined to celebrate life at the 32nd Annual Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Reunion at Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend Saturday.
They’ve survived one of the most trying times of their lives and can now look back and celebrate.
“Not being able to, you know, take your child home and just walk out the door. Without that, it’s just the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” said Sharon Marshall.
Forty weeks seems like a long time to be pregnant, but moms who don’t make it to that benchmark are usually not thrilled to have the process cut short. It typically means something has gone wrong.
Charity Thompson remembers how nerve-racking it was. She had to spend eight days in the NICU with her son Isaac.
“It seemed like a year. It went by so slow,” said Thompson.
The experience is hard to put into words, and it’s why reunions like this one mean so much to the parents that have been through it. It’s a chance to come together, bonding over a time that only they can truly understand.
“It was just scary ’cause you don’t know if he’s going to be okay and how long he’s going to have to stay there,” said Thompson. Every mom’s journey is different, and for Sharon Marshall it included three hospitals and a helicopter ride.
“Twenty-seven weeks when I was put on bed rest over there, then life-flighted at 28 weeks to the hospital in downtown from Bend, then he was delivered at 30 weeks and three days on 8-8-08,” said Marshall.
From there, Sharon ended up at RiverBend, a stay that turned into a two-month journey before she was finally able to go home. The early start for baby Zander did come with a few delays, but in time he’s expected to catch right back up.
“He’s had some developmental delays, which we expected being a 30-week preemie. You know he didn’t walk at the same time, and he’s still isn’t really talking, but he gets into everything and is normal, and he’s just a health happy kid,” said Marshall.
There is of course the other side to the NICU coin and Saturdays get-together was a chance for folks like Neonatologist Dr. Gladstone to see how far all the babies who graduated have come.
“Its fun to see a success and feel that maybe we’ve all be a part of it,” said Dr. Gladstone.
A success that all parents who graduate from the NICU are forever thankful for.
“Just stay strong. There’s a good outcome in the end, and as you can see, you get a beautiful healthy baby in the end,” said Marshall.
More than 500 babies receive care at Sacred Heart’s NICU every year.