CHANDLER, Ariz - Nov. 13, 2018 - Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center’s Nursery Intensive Care Unit (NICU) recently welcomed hundreds of former patients, many who weighed in under a pound at birth, for a superhero themed reunion picnic held in Chandler.
The Chandler Regional NICU Reunion Picnic celebrated more than 500 patients born at the hospital and their families. Families and providers often develop close bonds after spending extended periods of time together. Many members of the NICU staff have spent more than 20 years working with these mini superheroes.
“We look forward to the NICU picnic every year,” said Kathleen Thrasher, RN, the Clinical Supervisor of Chandler Regional’s NICU. “The picnic gives providers, nurses, staff and volunteers a chance to reconnect with families of these incredible babies that we had the great honor of caring for.”
This was the first year one-year old Bodhi Nelson attended the event with his family. Bodhi was born prematurely on April 20, 2017 at Chandler Regional with Prader-Willi syndrome. He spent four-and-a-half weeks in the hospital’s NICU, and the Nelson family grew close with the skilled staff that provided for him.
“Never in my life have I been so terrified and so lucky all in the same sentence. In a time when I was so scared, and we had no idea what was going on, the NICU staff became family – from the neonatologist, all the way and down into the cleaning staff, they were there for us when we needed them, caring for Bodhi like he was their own,” recalls Bodhi’s mother, Billie Nelson. The Nelson family lives in Chandler.
Billie says she can still name each nurse that cared for her only son by first name, and keeps in touch with many of them, sending pictures and occasionally stopping by the hospital for a quick visit.
“We are extremely grateful to our families, and to have been a part of the most important moments of their lives,” said Thrasher. “It is truly a celebration of life and family.”
Chandler Regional hosts the reunion picnic every year in November to reunite former patient families and the medical staff who have played such an important part in their children’s health. Attendees at the Nov. 3 event were treated to pony rides, a petting zoo, games, a photo booth, face painting, raffles, food and more.
“Bodhi is our little miracle. He’s already hit many milestones, and has many more to come,” says Billie. “The picnic means so much, because I get to see many of the loving, helpful, familiar faces who were so crucial in those early days. I can't ever begin to thank them enough for all that they did. The picnic is the continuity of love we felt, that will always bring us back every year.”