I just attended a reunion of NICU babies at our hospital. The NICU is the neonatal intensive care unit, where premature or other medically distressed babies go to get bigger and stronger. Over the last 15-20 years, there have been major advances in the treatment of these babies that allow even very small ones (1.5 pounds) to survive. Surfactants allow their lungs to be opened, and new types of ventilation permit them to breathe without damage to delicate repiratory tissues. Previously, many would die. Ordinarily, they stay in the NICU until their normally expected birthdate, which could be days, weeks, or months.
At this reunion, we revealed photographic portraits of 11 of these babies, who now range in age from 3 to 14. There are pictures of their baby days and from now, along with a written summary of their stay in the NICU and their current activities. They kids play lacrosse, compose music, excel at school, and engage in a multitude of normal activities. Some have neurological or other problems resulting from their premature days, but all are happy, functioning children.
The portrait gallery is called the "Hall of Hope" and is designed to give current NICU parents encouragement as they walk by to visit their really little babies. We are not the first place to do this, but I am pleased that we have done so.
If you had or knew a NICU baby (or were one!) and want to relate your story, please submit a comment.