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Annual Event Reunites Graduates of North Oaks Medical Center's NICU

  • Category: In The News
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  • Written By: Nanette White
When Brittany Carey’s baby was born weighing 1 pound, 7 ounces, she knew she wouldn’t be able to bring him home from North Oaks Medical Center for a while.

But she never imagined that it would be 98 days before he would be released from the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or that it would be 10 weeks before she would hold him for the first time.

“It was the longest three months of my life,” Mrs. Carey disclosed. “The NICU team was great. The staff was great. And they took precautions that helped make him the healthy, healthy baby he is today.”

On Dec. 5, the Careys reunited 2-year-old Warren “Deuce” Carey Jr. with the NICU staff who cared for him during the first months of his life.

The Careys were among about 300 former NICU patients or “graduates” and their family members who were honored during the annual NICU Reunion at the E. Brent Dufreche Conference Center, located within North Oaks Diagnostic Center in Hammond.

“I wanted Deuce to see all the nurses, and I wanted them to see him,” she commented. “We’ll come every year. They got to know him for three months and almost didn’t want to send him home.”

Sometimes, a baby may be born prematurely or with a health condition that requires admission to the NICU, and his or her stay may range from a few days to as long as 6 months.

With extended lengths of stay, it is natural for a strong bond to form between medical personnel and the baby’s family—sometimes even close friendships, according to Lead Nurse Practitioner Scott Landry.

“We see these children at their worst and see the families going through difficult times. As these children heal, we enjoy the comfort of knowing they go home healthy with their parents,” Landry shared. “It gives us inspiration to continue fighting for them.”

Since the NICU was opened in 1991 at North Oaks Medical Center, thousands of children have spent time there.

Sixteen years ago, Kellie Husser, suffering from an infection and requiring a blood transfusion, spent two weeks in the NICU. She and her mother Shannon were the first to arrive at the reunion, following her “Sweet 16” birthday party the night before. They have attended every year since Kellie’s birth.

“We plan our calendars around this reunion. Even when she’s married with children of her own, we’re coming back to it,” Mrs. Husser remarked. “They (the NICU) saved her life. It was touch and go. We are so thankful.”

Kellie especially looks forward to visiting with staff member Jackie Lackings each year, Mrs. Husser added.

A highlight for graduates is visiting with Santa Claus and taking a keepsake photo with him. They also enjoyed holiday music and videos, face painting, storytelling, games, craft-making and refreshments provided by Chick-fil-A. In addition, each child received coloring books and crayons.

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

For more information about North Oaks’ NICU or any of the health system’s services for women and children, click here or call North Oaks Corporate Communications at (985) 230-6647.

Warren Carey Sr. (left) and Brittany Carey (holding Deuce) bring Lead Nurse Practitioner Scott Landry (center) up to speed on their son’s health at the NICU Reunion.

From left, North Oaks Marketing Director Shantel Johnson visits with NICU graduate Kellie Husser and her mother Shannon Husser. The Hussers were the first guests to arrive at the reunion, following Kellie’s “Sweet 16” birthday party the night before. The mother and daughter have attended every year since Kellie’s birth.