Springfield, Ore. -- Hundreds of people celebrated the 39th annual Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Reunion Sunday afternoon at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Springfield.
The event brought together hundreds of NICU alumni, their family members and staff who cared for children during critical times in their lives.
For David Hokama, Sacred Heart Medical Center became his second home when his daughter Gracie was born three months early.
Hokama said he was told by doctors his daughter may not be able to breathe. Three years later, he said Gracie is thriving.
“This is just so much fun,” Hokama said. “We get to see all the families and doctors and see the nurses again and meet everyone that was special to her and helped her survive."
Lisa Quezada, the Interim Director of Women and Children’s Services at Sacred Heart said the reunion is a great way to bring closure to both families and the hospital staff.
She said it brings her joy to see children who were once suffering from health complications, happy and healthy.
For Kayla Guerrero, every day she gets to spend with her 9-year-old son is a celebration.
She said she was elated when she gave birth to her first-born son, Mateo, but a whirlwind of fear took over when he was born with Hirschsprung’s disease which is a a lack of nerve cells in the intestines.
Guerrero said her son was facing a 30% chance of survival and underwent six surgeries.
"He's doing really well,” Guerrero said. “He's still is a frequent flyer to the pediatric care here at Riverbend but for his condition, he's doing really amazing."
Guerrero said she comes back to the reunion each year to spend time with the caregivers who were crucial to Mateo's life.
"The hospital itself is such a wonderful place,” she said. "The care they provided my son and most of all, getting to see our old doctors and nurses that got us through those trying times when he was a baby."
The reunion took place immediately after the 2018 Race for the Ace 5K, a fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network, a program of the PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center Foundation.
Quezada says the event seems to be growing each year and hopes to continue to reunite families, children and staff for years to come.