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Annual Reunion Celebrates NICU "Graduates"

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  • Written By: Nanette White
Annual Reunion Celebrates NICU

More than 230 guests visited with Santa Claus, Neonatologist Ivan Villalta, MD, and North Oaks Women & Children’s staff members at the annual Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Reunion held Saturday, Dec. 6.

Former NICU patients or “graduates” and their family members were the guests of honor at the event, held in the E. Brent Dufreche Conference Center, located within North Oaks Diagnostic Center in Hammond. The children enjoyed storytelling, face painting, craft-making, holiday music, and refreshments, including pastries provided by Doughlicious Donuts of Hammond. Each child also took a keepsake photo with Santa Claus.

Sometimes, a baby may be born prematurely or with a health condition that requires admission to North Oaks Medical Center’s NICU. In these cases, the baby’s NICU stay may range from a few days to as long as 6 months.

“Dr. Villalta is wonderful. I really love the staff here and try to keep up with them through social media. I really couldn’t have asked for better care,” shares Mandy Davis of Livingston. Her now 3-year-old daughter, Sherrie Efferson, was born 2 months prematurely and weighed just 4 pounds and 11 ounces. She spent 16 days in the NICU.

Tara Ambrose’s two daughters, 2 1/2-year-old Isabella and 5-year-old Chloe, were both admitted to the NICU. She brings the children to the annual event to celebrate how much they have grown with the staff.

“We like to visit the staff and the girls have such a good time at the party,” Ambrose shares. “We were really treated well here.”

With lengths of stay often long, it is natural for strong bonds and friendships to form between families and NICU staff, according to Kirsten Constantino, North Oaks Assistant Vice President of Patient Services.

“Each year, we look forward to seeing our former patients and celebrating their development with their families at the NICU Reunion,” Constantino explains. “It’s a joyful way to start the holiday season.”

Nineteen North Oaks Health System staff members volunteered their personal time to help host the event.

The North Oaks NICU is ranked among the top 25 percent in the U.S. according to the prestigious Vermont Oxford Study in their review of patient outcomes in selected areas.

For more information about the NICU at North Oaks Medical Center or any of the health system’s services for women and children, please call the North Oaks Business Development Department at (985) 230-6647.

North Oaks employee Terri Hinshaw admires the work of 5-year-old Hunter Meyn of Amite. Hunter was born 10 weeks prematurely, weighing about 2 pounds. He stayed 1 day in the NICU before being transferred to the Intermediate Care Nursery where he stayed almost 8 weeks.

Five-year-old Chloe Ambrose (right) and her sister Isabella, 21Ž2, take a break from NICU activities to enjoy donuts and orange juice. Their mother Tara Ambrose shares that both girls are graduates of the NICU.


Three-year-old Kyle Johnson visits with Santa.

Neonatologist Ivan A. Villalta, MD, visits with NICU graduate Ava Jackson, age 7 (pictured with her mother Crystal Gibson). Ava spent 6 weeks in the NICU.

NICU graduate Sherrie Efferson, 3, colors a picture of Santa. Sherrie was born 2 months prematurely, weighing 4 pounds, 11 ounces. She spent 16 days in NICU.

Santa with baby boy Gus Bearlepp.