St. Luke's NICU hosts reunion for families and hospital workers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - St. Luke’s Hospital is hosting a special reunion this weekend for parents whose babies were born premature and the doctors and nurse in NICU who cared for those babies.

This is the 31st year for the reunion that gives the families an opportunity to say thank you.

For many families, they form a special bond with the hospital workers when their babies are in NICU. Cassandra and Brandon Dickerson are still friends with their nurse, Ashley Doebele today, two years after their twin girls were born.

“Ashley took a big part in taking care of our kids and when they were growing up, gaining weight, passing goals week by week,” Brandon said. “We were happy to see one person with our children most of the time. It gave us a little more comfort, peace of mind.”

Ava and Olivia Dickerson arrived four months early, in April of 2012. Cassandra said she knew something wasn’t right when she saw blood and they immediately went to the hospital.

“I just felt scared, honestly, I didn't feel like our daughters would survive,” she said.

They ended up at St. Luke’s Hospital and both parents said, as soon as they arrived, they felt peace.

“That immediate peace that we felt is because they knew exactly what to say and they knew exactly what to do,” said Cassandra. “They know how to save babies.”

Ava and Olivia were born, weighing barely two pounds combined.

“They were about the length of my hand, I could fit my wedding ring all the way up to her shoulder,” Brandon said. “Their eyelids were fused shut. You could see through their skin, it was transparent.”

They remained in NICU for four months, until they came to term.

“Terrifying,” said Brandon. “In the end, in hindsight, a beautiful experience, but terrifying at the time, definitely.”

From the first time they met night nurse, Ashley Doebele, the Dickerson’s knew their daughters were in good hands.

“I knew that Ashley truly loved our kids,” said Cassandra. “She really connected with Ava and Olivia and she really cared about them as little people.”

Ashley said she bonded with Cassandra and Brandon over the course of those four months.

“A normal delivery, people think when you have your baby, you leave the hospital with your baby,” said Doebele. “These parents are going home, leaving their children in your hands. I just have respect for them for trusting us with that.”

Over the last two years, Doebele grew closer to the Dickersons, becoming good friends and visiting Ava and Olivia often.

While they see each other frequently, many other families don’t get an opportunity to stay in touch with the doctors and nurses who cared for their children. So the reunion brings them together again, once a year.

“You get to be through that whole process and then they go home and they're healthy, big babies,” said Doebele.

In 2013, more than 250 people celebrated the reunion at St. Luke’s Hospital on the Country Club Plaza.

This year, it’s from 2-4 p.m. on June 8.  For more information, visit the Maternity and NICU section on St. Luke’s website: www.saintlukeshealthsystem.org

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