September 22, 2016
Hundreds of NICU families and graduates from the past 10 years will attend the little monsters-themed festive, family-friendly event. Activities will include educational entertainment, healthy snacks and indoor and outdoor play. Centerpoint Medical Center—part of HCA Midwest Health, Kansas City’s leading healthcare provider—is home to an Advanced Level III NICU.
This year will be special for the Ramirez’s of Independence, Mo., who will attend the reunion with their newest family member, Joaquin, born on July 21. Born a month early at five pounds nine ounces to parents Brandy and Anthony, Joaquin spent three weeks in Centerpoint Medical Center’s NICU following feeding problems, jaundice and heart rate and oxygen level issues. “Joaquin was with us for an hour following his birth before he was put into the NICU,” says Brandy Ramirez. “Within a couple of hours he was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. For a month Anthony and I took shifts, dividing our time between Joaquin and our three other children.”
During Joaquin’s NICU stay, the family was connected with the Down Syndrome Guild and other support organizations. Joaquin began physical therapy to help with feeding and Brandy developed a strong bond with the doctors and nurses who were at her family’s side. “It was truly a shock to have Joaquin born with issues that required him to be in the NICU,” Brandy Ramirez says. “Nothing had shown up during my pregnancy, so we weren’t prepared emotionally. But the team of physicians, including Dr. Dena Hubbard, and nurses were compassionate and simply amazing—I found they were a priceless support group.”
Dena Hubbard, M.D., Neonatologist, Medical Director, Centerpoint Medical Center NICU, was Joaquin’s physician and helped the Ramirez’s through scary times and a roller coaster of emotions. “The NICU reunion allows all of us—doctors, nurses, support staff, families and graduates—to reunite and celebrate life,” she says. “It’s quite moving and important for all us because, during the time a baby like Joaquin stays in our NICU and even after they leave, we are indeed one big family. The reunion is a wonderful event—the babies are healthy and happy at home and then return to see us, which is our greatest reward. It’s why we do what we do.”
The Ramirez family brought Joaquin home on Aug. 11; six weeks later he is a thriving, bouncing baby boy. “I’m grateful for everyone we met during our NICU experience,” Brandy Ramirez says. “My advice for other parents with NICU babies: bond with the doctors and nurses and listen to their advice. Going home with a healthy baby is everyone’s goal.”