Hillcrest Hospital Celebrates Families Who Stayed at Neonatal Unit
The event, in support of the March of Dimes, brought together families whose premature babies stayed at Hillcrest
The families who visited Hillcrest Hospital Wednesday night found comfort and togetherness at the same place they turned to during some of their most trying times.
Twenty families took part in Hillcrest's Share Your NICU Story" event Wednesday, where parents gathered to discuss and celebrate their children who have grown to overcome premature births and long stays at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Parents like Mark and Denise DiTomas of Mayfield Heights were invited to create posters to commemorate the triumphs of their children since birth. Mark and Denise had two extended NICU stays, first for a month with Anthony, now-a 12-year-old Mayfield Middle School student-athlete, and then for two weeks with 7-year-old Vince. Though the family remembers the anxiety associated with their childrens' seven- and eight-weeks-premature births, events like Wednesday's give them a chance to reconnect with the doctors and nurses who were by their sides.
"It was a difficult experience, but they made as easy and as pleasant as possible," Mark said. "For (the family's NICU doctor Jeff Schwersenski) to be here for 17 years is amazing. You see familiar faces, familiar people and you tend to get to know them."
The families' posters will be on display in the hospital and later at the March of Dimes Walk through downtown Cleveland next month.
Some parents like Karla Morson of Willoughby Hills came to the event with a completed poster. Morson enjoyed sharing images of her nearly 19-month-old daughter, Kennedy, as much as she did praising Hillcrest for its care of her little one, who was born at 1 pound, 1.6 ouces.
"I was only six months pregnant and it happened so unexpectedly," Morson said. "They kept reassuring me, 'look at her, her eyes are open, she's looking around. That really helped, but it definitely was a traumatic experience — she spent 81 days in the NICU.
"I just give so much credit to them because they really helped us in the journey ... I feel like we owe them so much because Kennedy is running, trying to talk and is a healthy baby girl."
Denise DiTomas was touched by Morson's story and said she enjoys bonding with others who have an understanding of what her family went through.
"It's just nice to see people who have been in your situation, as far as you being able to them or just having someone to talk to," Denise DiTomas said. "I know what it was like when we first had them and what we went through."
Hillcrest family support specialist Therese Razzante said the hospital holds such events and support groups in attempts to bring parents together and support them for years after their NICU stay.
"We take care of the families as a whole entire unit," she said.
"We care about those parents, just as we do those fragile babies."