For some, it’s been a year or less; for other children, it’s been decades since their Overland Park Regional Medical Center neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) experience.  This year’s much-anticipated reunion — the first in-person gathering since the pandemic — offered former patients, their parents and siblings an opportunity to reconnect with many of the caregivers who became their extended families in the NICU. Several sets of multiples attended this year’s circus-themed event.

“This year’s reunion is extra-special because it’s the first time that neonatologists, nursing, respiratory and other ancillary services will gather in-person with NICU families since the pandemic,” says Overland Park Regional Medical Center board-certified neonatologist Jamesia Donato, MD, a mother of twins who spent time in the NICU. “To see these kids thriving after experiencing a challenging start to life is inspiring and a powerful testament to the advanced technology and high-quality care our babies receive.” 

“This NICU reunion is a celebration of many tiny miracles,” says Overland Park Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Matt Sogard, FACHE. “It’s an honor for us to be a part of our NICU graduates’ lives and build memories together.”

Overland Park Regional Medical Center’s Level III NICU is Johnson County’s most advanced NICU, caring for more premature infants than any other hospital in the Kansas City area.

Loomis family’s three NICU grads: The emotional journey home

Rachel and Chandler Loomis of Overland Park are parents to three healthy and happy children who each spent time in the Overland Park Regional Medical Center NICU. Daughter Charlie was born in 2018 at 33 weeks and weighed 4 lb. 4 oz; she spent 36 days in the NICU gaining strength. Sister Addelyn, born in 2019 at 34 weeks, weighed 4 lb. 14 oz and spent 28 days in the NICU before joining the family at home. Cooper met his big sisters in 2021 after spending 75 days in the NICU. Born at 27 weeks, he weighed a fragile 2 lb. 9 oz.

“I became high risk during my pregnancy with Charlie due to kidney disease,” Rachel Loomis says. “I experienced complications like preeclampsia and my OB-GYN Dr. Meghan Nichols referred me to consult with Overland Park Regional Medical Center perinatologist Dr. Brent Finley.”

The high blood pressure disorder, which can occur during pregnancy, ultimately led to the early delivery of all three Loomis babies.

“All of the kids’ stories are different,” she says. “While the girls were early, their NICU stays were mild. When we learned Cooper would deliver at 27 weeks, we knew there would be more hurdles and challenges. He was diagnosed with craniosynostosis, in which the bones in a baby's skull join too early and required a cranial surgery upon leaving the NICU. His journey has been lengthy but overall, his health is fantastic.

“The kids are thriving today. Each of their stories is vastly different but you would never know they were born early unless asked. We’re grateful for Dr. Lancaster, Dr. Samuel Burns, Dr. Finley and Dr. Nichols. We love them and the Overland Park Regional Medical Center NICU team and are forever thankful for the high-quality, compassionate care our babies received.”