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Celebrating lives touched in our neonatal intensive care unit

September 10, 2014

When a parent of a premature baby is scared to hold their infant who depends on respiratory support to breathe, and whose body barely fits in the palms of their hands, it is difficult for them to imagine that same child laughing and being filled with excitement for hot dogs, face paint and music. For many parents who have spent months in Mount Sinai’s Newton Glassman Charitable Foundation Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), seeing their children grow into energetic children is a reminder every day that the unimaginable is possible.

That experience is exactly what parents shared at Mount Sinai’s 30th annual NICU Graduate picnic this summer. Graduate families, volunteers and clinical staff gathered in High Park to celebrate their children’s successes and the important work done in Mount Sinai’s NICU.  The annual event attracted 800 people and also provided an opportunity for parents to reconnect with friends and clinical staff who were so integral to their NICU experience and care. 

Even after 30 years Marianne Bracht, parent resource coordinator at Mount Sinai and co-founder of the NICU Graduate Picnic, is always excited to see parents and their children doing so well. “It is gives me so much enjoyment to see the buoyancy and happiness of the families who come to the picnic and how the work we do has affected their lives.”

NICU graduate family

A NICU graduate family celebrates life and the care their son Gabriel (top right) received at Mount Sinai when he was born premature at 26 weeks. Click here to see more photos from the picnic.

Being a parent of a premature baby in a neonatal intensive care unit can be a very frightening and isolating experience. Parents of premature infants may spend several months caring for their baby in the hospital and face a whole set of unexpected issues, emotions and circumstances that only other parents of premature infants can understand. To create a supportive environment for these families, Mount Sinai’s NICU has established a family focused care model that includes a variety of parent support resources to ultimately improve the well-being of both parents and their babies.

“Nobody knows what families in our neonatal intensive care unit have gone through except for families who have gone through it themselves,” says Bracht. “The picnic helps us celebrate the important work that we do for these families and provides our graduate families with an opportunity to reconnect with other parents who have had similar experiences.”

Mount Sinai’s Newton Glassman Charitable Foundation NICU is the largest in the GTA and each year cares for more than 1,000 premature infants who are less than 35 weeks gestation, many of them weighing less than a kilogram. The Hospital will soon open its doors to a newly constructed NICU that that will further enhance our family-centered approach to neonatal care.