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Annual event reunites families of premature babies with medical center staff
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Glenna Bray gives daughter Alaina, 7 months, a kiss Saturday at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s neonatal unit reunion at Laurel Park. Alaina was in NICU for two months with breathing trouble. “You couldn’t even tell now,” said her mother, Glenna Bray of Banks County. - photo by NAT GURLEY

In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, mutual concern for the newborn babies under their care fosters a bond between doctors, nurses and parents.

But Saturday afternoon at Laurel Park, those families and nurses were all smiles and laughter as they had the opportunity to talk and catch up in a more carefree setting, outside the hospital.

“It’s really good to see them; it’s like seeing family,” Kerry Phagan said as she held one of her 8-month-old twins.

For the second year, the NICU at Northeast Georgia Medical Center held the reunion to caregivers and parents an opportunity to reconnect and see their now healthy, growing babies.

Newborn babies to elementary school-aged kids were there with their old doctors and nurses, distinguishable in their blue shirts.

Phagan’s baby boys were in the NICU for four weeks.

“I called every day checking on them,” she said. “All of them were really, really nice, all of the nurses.”

Nurse manager Janessa Canals-Alonso, one of the event organizers, said more than 50 families came out for the reunion.

“We invited about 200 families this year, and so far we’ve had a really good turnout,” she said.

“We just had a mom come in, her babies were small, about 24 weeks or so, twins. And she just came in and started crying and said ‘I feel like a celebrity, everybody is coming up to us!’” she said of the mom, overwhelmed with the positive response.

Some of the attendees didn’t even recognize their doctors outside the hospital.

“I remember you! I saw you almost every day for two weeks,” exclaimed one mother upon seeing Dr. Cynthia Labrera, neonatologist and of one the medical directors of the NICU.

“She doesn’t look the same without her scrubs on,” she commented to a group of nurses.

Event organizers had the parents pose for pictures with their kids, which they’ll be getting in the mail as a keepsake.
And for the nurses, Canals-Alonso said the event is a great reminder of why those 12-hour shifts in the NICU are so worthwhile.

“It’s a moment for us to really stay motivated and passionate about what we do because it’s so rewarding to see them,” she said.

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