A little rain didn’t stop the determined gathering of families from getting together at the first-ever NICU reunion at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.
Hundreds of parents, their children, hospital staff and volunteers showed up at our Beeghly campus amid a few raindrops to celebrate life, visit with new friends, and remark about how much each other’s children have grown and progressed since spending their first days, weeks or even months in an area neonatal intensive care unit.
Alisha Alls, of Warren, came with her mother and 2 year-old twins, Autumn and Alexandria. They planned to meet up with a family who they met during their 25 days in the NICU.
“The staff here was so nice, and we wanted the people who cared for them to see how much they’ve grown,” Alisha said. “The staff here made it a lot easier than it would have been otherwise. It wasn’t like they were nurses. They were friends who made sure you had what you needed.”
Allison Oltmann, of East Palestine, is the mother of 19 month-old twins, Paige and Harper, who spent 96 days in the NICU. They were born at 25 weeks, each weighing less than 2 lbs. Allison is part of the Family Action Collaborative Team that planned the event.
“It’s about giving back and celebrating all the good things that can happen. There are lots of good stories that come out of the NICU,” Allison said. “The NICU changed our family’s life for the better. It’s given me a whole new appreciation for the health of my children.”
Before Paige and Harper, Allison had a full-term, natural birth pregnancy, and thought everything would work out perfectly.
“Sometimes life throws you a little curve,” she said. “The minor things become meaningless. You end up seeing what should happen in utero and watching it right in front of you. You celebrate mini milestones. Those are the things that get you through every day.”
The reunion featured games, craft activities, ice cream, Akron Children’s Doggie Brigade, a clown and a popular “selfie spot” where NICU graduates posed for photos in mini-sized caps and gowns.
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As part of our year-long anniversary celebration, we’re telling the story of Akron Children’s through the eyes of past and present employees, doctors, donors, volunteers and patient families. We encourage you to share your own memories and stories about us.