Amiracca Marshall was hospitalized at North Oaks Medical Center for 2 ½
months before her baby was born breech, and he spent another month in
the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). So returning Saturday to the
NICU Annual Reunion was like a homecoming.
Ms. Marshall and baby Tripp, who are pictured above with Santa, were among
the 255 former NICU patients or “graduates” and their family
members who were honored during the event at the E. Brent Dufreche Conference
Center, within North Oaks Diagnostic Center in Hammond.
In fact, she spent so much time at North Oaks that she was married at the
medical center, and even had her baby shower there.
“I had a great experience. The doctors were awesome. It was so special,”
Ms. Marshall had a 5 pound tumor in her stomach that caused her hospitalization.
Doctors removed the tumor in November 2016, and little Tripp was born
two months prematurely on Christmas Day. He weighed just 3 pounds, 9 ounces.
Sometimes, a baby may be born prematurely or with a health condition that
requires admission to the NICU, and the baby’s stay may range from
a few days to as long as six months.
With extended lengths of stay, it is natural for a strong bond to form
between medical personnel and the families, sometimes becoming close friends,
according to Lead Nurse Practitioner Scott Landry.
In between greeting former patients, Landry caught up with 3-year-old Ethan
Lee and his mother Olivia. Ethan was born with Haemophilus influenzae
type b (Hib), a bacterium that infects the lining of the brain, causing
meningitis. His was the first case of infant Hib in the medical center’s
history, according to Mrs. Lee.
Ethan, who is pictured above with NICU Reunion volunteer Kristen Ahrend,
spent 4½ weeks in the NICU and was given less than a 15 percent
chance of survival. Today, he is deaf and has other serious medical conditions
but is progressing well.
“When Ethan came in, he had a slim chance of survival. It was a very
sad moment for his family and our team. We continued to fight and he continued
to fight,” Landry shares. “To see him today is such a miracle
Since the NICU was opened in 1991, thousands of children have spent time
in the unit. With extended stays, like Ethan’s, we all become family,”
according to Kirsten Riney, vice president of patient services.
“These babies are so vulnerable and fragile. We fight so hard for
them to leave here healthy that relationships last for many years,”
Mrs. Riney notes.
Kellie Husser and her mother Shannon haven’t missed a reunion in
19 years, and they were the first to arrive at this year’s event.
Kellie spent 2½ weeks in the NICU, and says she’ll keep attending
the reunion until she turns 21.
“It puts a smile on my mother’s face,” she notes, adding
that her mother teared up as they were pulling into the parking lot.
Kellie and the other guests will receive a keepsake photo with Santa Claus.
They were also treated to holiday music and videos, face painting, games,
craft-making and refreshments provided by Chick-fil-A.
Twenty-six North Oaks Health System staff members volunteered their personal
time to hold the event.
For more information about North Oaks’ NICU or any of the health
system’s services for women and children, please call the North
Oaks Business Development Department at (985) 230-6647.
Chelsey and Michael Yeargin of Ponchatoula attend the annual NICU reunion
with their sons Cayden and Cameron. Mrs. Yeargin made the boys special
shirts celebrating the event.
From left, Braydin and Caitlynn Mizell enjoy coloring activities during
the event. Braydin spent five days in the NICU when he was born prematurely.