Together again: Maimonides welcomes former NICU babies for patient-team ‘family’ reunion

NICU Reunion 2022
More than 300 former NICU patients came back to Maimonides Medical Center on June 13 for the hospital’s annual doctor-patient reunion.
Maimonides Medical Center

Maimonides Medical Center, a Brooklyn hospital known for its maternity care, hosted its annual NICU reunion earlier this month, where patients got the chance to reconnect with the doctors who treated them.

On June 13, the Borough Park hospital welcomed more than 300 former patients for a block party that included games, raffles, entertainment and food. Above else, the event offered a safe space for former NICU babies to meet those healthcare professionals who helped them in their earliest days.

“Maimonides Health is the leading tertiary delivery system in Brooklyn, so we have the unique privilege of delivering more future New Yorkers than any other hospital,” said Kenneth Gibbs, president and CEO of Maimonides Health, in a statement.

Maimonides’ Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is among the best in New York City, according to hospital leaders.

“The patients being cared for at the Maimonides NICU are some of the highest-risk newborns in the city, so treating them requires advanced training, compassion, and empathy for the parents who put their children’s lives in our hands,” said Dr. Alok Bhutada, chief of the Division of Newborn Medicine at Maimonides’ Children’s Hospital. “There is an attendant in the unit 24 hours a day, ensuring everyone has constant access to care.”

And although it’s a large unit, Dr. Bhutada said, mothers receive personalized care.

“It’s a big unit, but I know every mother on a one-on-one basis and they know me,” he said, adding that when parents need to change hospitals, they often return and say, “I really miss Maimonides.”

“We have phenomenal patient rep,” he said.

The idea for a NICU reunion blossomed from the relationship patients already had with Maimonides — parents often send pictures of their children or even visit with their youngsters to update doctors on how they’re doing. Eventually, Dr. Bhutada said, it only made sense to host such a get-together, which takes place every three years outside the hospital’s campus.

At Maimonides’ sixth annual reunion, parents expressed gratitude for the care their babies received at Maimonides. Among those parents were Josselin Gutierrez and Sara Leah Klein, who spoke about their now-four-year-old daughters. When born a day apart, they weighed only 14 ounces and 1 pound, 2 ounces.

“We are elated to celebrate the gift of life with hundreds of former patients we have helped save and are proud to have played such an important role in their lives and families,” President Gibbs said.

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Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park.Google Maps

Dr. Bhutada said this year’s event was both “amazing” and “absolutely emotional.”

“I think I got more out of it than the parents,” he said, noting that a 14-year-old girl he’d helped when she was born attended to tell him she is now the top of her class. “It was such an inspiration seeing them doing so well, because when they exit the ward as babies you don’t know how they’re doing but seeing them as older children is a powerful stimulant to continue.”

“You can see that your work has such a good outcome,” Dr. Bhutada went on.

He describes the event as a “great connection point” where parents and children want to connect with the nurses. Someone even flew in from Minnesota to meet them.

After Dr. Bhutada’s speech, he gestured for everyone to gather for a photo.

“Look at this picture,” he said afterward. “It’s a complete rainbow of diversity, all races and ethnicities and outfits. It tells you — this is New York!”