Santa Greets NICU Graduates at North Oaks’ Annual Reunion

Former NICU patients or “graduates” of North Oaks Medical Center and their family members were honored during an event at the E. Brent Dufreche Conference Center, within North Oaks Diagnostic Center in Hammond.

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, according to Scott Landry, lead nurse practitioner.

Since the NICU was opened in 1991, thousands of children have spent time in the unit. 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.”

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 two and a half 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 noted, adding that her mother teared up as they were pulling into the parking lot.

Twenty-six North Oaks Health System staff members volunteered their personal time to hold the event.