They're often described by medical professionals and parents alike as miracle babies --- babies who overcome the odds of severe prematurity, and often illnesses, and survive. The staff in the Special Care Nurseries at Emory Crawford Long Hospital 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 between the families and their caretakers.
Each year in December, the former preemies, their parents, doctors, nurses and other nursery staff all bond again at the annual "Preemie Party." It's an opportunity for these once tiny miracles – now toddlers, school-aged children and even teenagers – and their grateful parents to reunite with staff members in the Special Care Nurseries who took care of them when they were so fragile. And it's a time to celebrate life.
"We love seeing 'our babies' every year and watching them grow," says Susan Horner, RN, nurse in the Special Care Nurseries and preemie party coordinator. "And it's wonderful to visit with the parents who spent so many hours with their preemies 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 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. "We've found the more parents are involved with the care of their preemies, the better the babies develop and thrive."
Dr. Critz has cared for hundreds of preemies during her 25-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 both her skill and knowledge allow her to do it with ease. (Level III nurseries provide the widest variety of advanced care available for newborns.)
The annual Preemie Party will be held Friday, Dec. 8 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Glenn Building Classrooms at Emory Crawford Long Hospital, 550 Peachtree Street, Atlanta. The Glenn Building is located beside the Medical Office Tower and adjoins the hospital's main parking deck.
"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.