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Preemie party

All Smiles: Dr. Cherbrel Hickman shares a moment — and great taste in hats — with Akira Tarpley.
Photo by Steve Schnibbe

There was nothing premature about this party.

Coney Island Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit hosted its third-annual reunion party on Sept. 16, getting together with children who spent the first part of their lives in the care of the unit’s nurses. The unit’s head nurse said reuniting with the former patients and their families was a heartwarming experience for everyone involved.

“It’s about celebrating life,” said Kathleen Marino, who organized the event. “We remember when they were so sick and barely breathing and the mothers needed so much of our support. We just wanted to do something nice for them to show them that we still care about them and are thinking about them.”

About two dozen kids, ranging in age from infants to teens, returned to the hospital with their families to enjoy lunch, clowns, games, and prizes. But the best part was simply bonding with the caregivers.

Honored guest: Dr. Ram Raju, president of the Health and Hospitals Corporation, addresses guests at Coney Island Hospital’s neonatal ward reunion on Sept. 16.
Photo by Steve Schnibbe

“Some of the mothers are very emotional,” Marino said. “They can’t wait to see us, and the nurses couldn’t wait to see them. And the older children love listening to the stories about themselves as babies.”

Most of the babies admitted into the unit are born prematurely and struggle with respiratory problems until the unit’s 14 nurses and specialist neonatologists nurse them back to health. Marino said that all four of her own children were born at Coney Island Hospital, and each spent time in the unit. She said she wants the community to know that Coney Island Hospital is a good location to give birth.

“Come and deliver here, because we are going to take good care of you,” she said.

Sweet Tooth: Hope Hudson, 5, and her mother Eileen — dressed as Olaf from “Frozen” — enjoyed cake at the reunion.
Photo by Steve Schnibbe

Reach reporter Eric Faynberg at (718) 260–2508 or by e-mail at efaynberg@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @ericfaynberg.

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