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Celebrating life: Patients and parents reconnect with neonatal intensive care unit staff at annual reunion

Celebrating life: Patients and parents reconnect with neonatal intensive care unit staff at annual reunion

Hundreds of patients, family members and caregivers attended Saturday’s NICU Reunion in the courtyard at Children’s & Women’s Hospital

Published May 1st, 2024

By Casandra Andrews

A day before celebrating her 8th birthday, neonatal intensive care unit graduate Callie Tran traveled from Mississippi to Mobile to reconnect with the physicians and nurses who helped her fight for her life when she was born at just 22 weeks' gestation.

Callie Tran

Surrounded by colorful balloons in the shape of a hungry caterpillar, the little girl proudly held up a sign to show how far she had come since her time in the region’s only level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Children’s & Women’s Hospital.

“Callie’s existence would have not been possible without God and this incredible team,” said her mom, Darlene Tran, who attended the reunion with her daughter and her husband, Kevin. “We are forever grateful for all of the amazing work and support of the NICU staff.”

The Trans were among hundreds who gathered for the annual NICU Reunion, an event that has been held for than 30 years, offering families and caregivers a chance to catch up on the milestones they have celebrated since leaving the hospital.

“This time allows our USA Health NICU team to reconnect with patients and families that they have cared for,” said Children’s & Women’s Hospital CEO Deborah Browning, M.S.N., RN. “Many of our families return year after year — and it is a joy to watch our NICU graduates grow and excel!”

The NICU at Children’s & Women’s Hospital has a long history of helping the smallest newborns flourish. In a two-year period from 2016 to 2018, more than 96% of the babies born at 26 weeks' gestation survived. The survival rate for babies born at 22 weeks during the same period was close to 70%.

That success rate — and the sustained effort from healthcare staff that influence it — are some of the reasons Manimaran (Maran) Ramani, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.H.A., M.S.H.Q.S., division chief and medical director for the NICU and newly appointed chief medical officer for the hospital, moved to Mobile to lead what has become one of the nation’s most successful neonatology programs.

“The reunions are a powerful reminder of why we devote our careers to the care of premature infants and to academic research to positively impact their quality of life,” Ramani said. “It’s such an incredible experience to attend a NICU reunion and see a child dancing and laughing before you who weighed less than a pound at birth.”

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