|Media Note: The annual Preemie Party will be held on Friday, Dec. 14 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Glenn Building Classrooms at Emory Crawford Long Hospital, 550 Peachtree St. The Glenn Building is located beside the Medical Office Tower and adjoins the hospital's main parking deck. For parking information, please call or email the media contacts above.
They are often described as "miracle babies" - babies who overcome the odds of severe prematurity and illness, and survive. The staff in the Special Care Nurseries at Emory Crawford Long Hospital (ECLH) sees many of these little ones. Some are there for just a week or two. Others are there for months. And during their stay, special bonds are formed and many precious moments are shared between the families and their caretakers.
During the holiday season each December, doctors, nurses and staff in the Special Care Nurseries come together with the former "preemies" and their families to celebrate life and good health at the hospital's annual "Preemie Party." It's a time for grateful family members to once again thank those who cared for their babies when they were so fragile. And it's a time for the hospital staff to see how the little ones are growing - many now toddlers, school-aged children, teenagers and some in their 20s.
This year is a special year - it marks the 25th anniversary of the annual Preemie Party, and there are many reasons to celebrate.
"This party gives us the opportunity each year to reconnect with 'our babies' and their families and remember the many hurdles their little ones have overcome," says Ann Critz, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine and chief of pediatrics and medical director of nurseries, Emory Crawford Long Hospital. "It's inspiring to see these children thriving now, when they were once so sick. This gathering is one of the most rewarding things about my profession and I hope it continues for 25 more years, or longer." Dr. Critz has cared for hundreds of preemies during her 27-year tenure at Emory Crawford Long Hospital. The leading force behind a state-of-the-art Level III special care nursery is no simple task, but her skill, knowledge and gentle manner allow her to do it with ease. (Level III nurseries provide the widest variety of advanced care available for ill and premature newborns.)
"We love to see the children every year as they grow and develop," says Susan Horner, RN, nurse in the Special Care Nurseries and Preemie Party coordinator. "And it's a joy to visit with the parents and other family members who spent so many hours with their preemies and us in our nurseries."
All babies born at Emory Crawford Long Hospital, including preemies, experience what's called "family-centered care", a concept that encourages parents to assist in caring for, rocking, holding and feeding their babies daily.
"This technique is extremely important in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where we tell parents all hours are visiting hours in the NICU," says Dr. Critz. "We've found the more parents are involved with the care of their preemies, the better the babies develop and thrive."
On this year's agenda: a magic show, a clown show, holiday carols, a short holiday movie, lots of food and sweet treats, and of course, Santa Claus.
"Having the opportunity to see these children and their parents return to our hospital for a party, and not because they are sick, is a real reason to celebrate," says Dr. Critz.
ECLH opened the first NICU in the Southeast in 1981. Currently, it serves as the Emory Regional Perinatal Center, one of five centers in the South designated to care for high-risk infants.