UC Medical Center NICU hosts reunion for families, staff

Over the past 20 years, Diana Stahl has been present for the births of countless premature babies at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center NICU. A respiratory therapist, Stahl attends the deliveries of high-risk infants, standing by to deliver life-saving resuscitation if necessary.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, however, she got to hand out lollipops to happy, healthy NICU graduates instead.

More than 100 graduates of the UC Medical Center NICU and their families returned on Sept. 9 for a festival-style reunion in the hospital’s open-air courtyard.

Stahl and dozens of other NICU staff, nurses, and physicians volunteered their time for the chance to reunite with past patients and celebrate the success of UC Health’s Level III NICU, which cared for nearly 850 babies in 2016.

“This is why I do what I do,” Stahl said as she handed out lollipops at the sucker pull. “Seeing them healthy, seeing them happy – months later, years later. That’s what we’re here for.”

Greg and Dana Hill of Cleves were thrilled to reunite with their son’s NICU caregivers.

Clark and his twin brother were born three months early, and his twin brother passed away due to an illness. The family spent three months in the UC Medical Center NICU.

Today, Clark is a healthy, blonde two-year-old with a shy grin. Wearing a Superman t-shirt and cape, he was able to grab a photo with Dr. Henry Akinbi, who wore a matching Superman t-shirt.

“I love everybody here,” Dana Hill said. “They’re amazing. It’s the hardest thing you can ever go through, and they made it so much easier.”

The biennial reunion was sponsored by Friends of Tiny Hearts, the volunteer organization that provides support to the UC Medical Center NICU and its families. Organizers said about 500 people attended the event, including more than 100 NICU graduates.

“It’s important to celebrate the journey that only these people understand with each other, both the NICU staff and the families,” said volunteer Sue Ludwig, who worked as an occupational therapist in the NICU for 20 years. “Nobody else in their world understand what they went through.”

 

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