Published: Oct 01, 2012 01:58 PM
Modified: Oct 01, 2012 02:00 PM
It was a room full of miracles.
In this case, the miracles were running around, getting their faces painted and waving balloon animals.
These children were miracles because they had survived despite being born weighing a pound and some change, or suffering a stroke shortly after birth, or undergoing heart surgery as a newborn.
Every child had a story. And every parent was there to say thank-you to the doctors and nurses at N.C. Children’s Hospital.
Sunday afternoon was the reunion for the “graduates” of the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. The reunions have been happening every other year for at least the last 20 years. More then 500 adults and children drove from as far away as Fayetteville for Sunday’s event at Chapel Hill’s Friday Center, which volunteers had turned into a carnival for the families with lemonade, games and prizes.
Emily Finney, a North Raleigh mother of three, says she was there to show off her preemie twins, Carson and Ben. The boys, now 3 and wearing matching red-striped shirts, were running around and playing as Finney said she wanted the staff to know: “You did a good job.”
Amid the clowns and the cotton candy, there were reunions taking place.
Fathers Calvin Taylor Sr. of Chapel Hill and Brent Anthony of Raleigh posed for a picture while holding their sons, C.J. and Braxton, respectively. The men had met in the NICU when their sons were “bed buddies,” or in cribs next to each other.
C.J. had been born six weeks early, weighing 4 pounds, 11 ounces. He’s now a healthy boy, a month shy of his second birthday. Braxton was born full-term but suffered an unexplained brain hemorrhage. He has a feeding tube and is still getting therapeutic help, but he started walking in July.
About the experience in the NICU, Brent Anthony says, “It’s a powerful place.”
A few steps away, Season Del Castilho of Raleigh was catching up with nurse Sussy Binny. Del Castilho explained that her daughter, Riley, had been born at 24 weeks and weighed only one pound and six ounces. She stayed at the NICU for more than four months. Now, Del Castilho and her husband, Derek, boast that their daughter, now 22-months-old and weighing 18 pounds, hasn’t been sick once, not even an ear infection.
“I’m just so proud of her,” Del Castilho said. “I’m so thankful to them.”
Binny, who has been a nurse in the NICU for nine years, beamed at the sight of Riley, her blonde hair in pig tails: “She was so tiny and look at her now.” Binny, who had worked a night shift at the hospital before the reunion, said she couldn’t miss it. “I’m here to see my babies,” she said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Carl Bose, a neonatologist at the N.C. Children’s Hospital for 29 years, didn’t have to walk very far Sunday afternoon inside the Friday Center to find a former patient. He had treated Del Castilho’s daughter, Riley. He knelt down to say hello to Finney’s twins, Carson and Ben.
About the opportunity to see this room full of children, Bose said, “This is our reward.”