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NICU caregivers reunite with former patients - KOAM TV 7

NICU caregivers reunite with former patients

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JOPLIN, MISSOURI -

Premature birth is the number 1 killer of newborn babies. For the past 22 years, Freeman Hospital NICU nurses have cared for thousands of newborns and today, had the chance to reunite.

Now grown, Alexandra and Addison don't remember the time they each weighed a little more than 2 pounds. But, the care they received in freeman's neonatal intensive care unit left a lasting impression on their mom.

“It was one of the most incredibly stressful times of my life. I cried a lot. I'll never be able to thank them, never be able to thank them enough. Because of them, I have two beautiful daughters,” says Kelley Miller.

The experience prompted Miller, who was a cardiac intensive care nurse, to start work in the NICU.

“The day we went home was the day I interviewed for my position and that was 16 years ago,” she says.

She and other caregivers reunite with dozens of former patients, her daughters happily painting the faces of other kids who had similar starts in life. Children's Miracle Network helps to gather families to enjoy fun and games.

“We want to bring these families back together, they have so much in common and this is just a way to celebrate all of the lives that have been saved through the freeman NICU," says Heather Lesmeister with CMN.

Because they know not all will survive. Miller stands grateful with her healthy 16 year olds as they release balloons into the sky, many others around them remembering babies who did not survive.

“My girls, you know if you look back 20 or 30 years ago, they probably wouldn't have made it,” says Miller.

Freeman officials say that every year, nearly 250 babies come into the NICU. The nurses who work with them say that each baby leaves a special mark on them.

“They touch our hearts and our lives in so many ways and we're so blessed because they let us be a part of their lives. We can take someone who's so fragile and so tiny and so ill and then we get to send them home. We get to make families. So it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life,” says Miller.

This was the first year the hospital hosted the reunion. They plan to hold one every year. This coming Monday, Outback is teaming up with the hospital to raise funds for the cause. Visit https://freemanhealth.com/how-to-help/childrens-miracle-network-hospitals/childrens-miracle-network-hospitals-events for details.

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