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Some of the Biggest Bonds Come from the Tiniest Patients

Celebrating Life, Friendship and Personal Bonds at Pennsylvania Hospital’s 2013 Intensive Care Nursery Reunion

The careers of health care providers are some of the most stressful, yet most rewarding. Talk about running the full range a of emotions and experiences. Every day in hospitals around the world, nurses, physicians and therapists are on the front lines of health care, witnessing the intense highs of healing patients and sending them home, and the lows of caring for patients whose lives cannot be saved. At the top of those highs, health care workers sometimes have the opportunity to see patients beat seemingly insurmountable odds and go on to lead happy, productive lives. Plus, they have the satisfaction of knowing they played a important role in making that happen. Nowhere is this more apparent in an intensive care nursery. 

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Shown here in front of Pennsylvania Hospital’s original, historic Pine Building, are just some of the nearly 400 former patients and family members that attended the Hospital’s 2013 Intensive Care Nursery on October 5, 2013.



Last weekend nearly 400 people - 130 different families - came to Pennsylvania Hospital (PAH) for its bi-annual Intensive Care Nursery (ICN). Families were invited to come back to PAH to celebrate and reconnect with staff and other families with whom they forged deep bonds during their baby’s stay in the ICN. This year’s reunion theme was, “Never underestimate the size of miracles!" Held outdoors in the Hospital’s Elm Garden, it was a fall and Halloween-themed festival full of fun activities for children and adults alike: a bubble-blowing and painting table, pumpkin decorating, face painting, a photo booth and scrap-booking table, along with live music, free food (including barbeque and ice cream - always a kiddie fave), fundraising raffles, and silent auction to benefit the ICN.

The event was marked by a parade of super, SUV-like strollers toting adorable, multiple mini-passengers, lots of hugs, and laughter as staff reunited with their former patients. “It is so wonderful to be able to see how well our patients are doing and how big they’ve grown,” said Jeffrey S. Gerdes, MD, chair, Section of Newborn Pediatrics, “Although we routinely get photos and cards from families - especially around the holidays - showing us how well everyone is fairing, nothing beats seeing our former little patients in person.”


The most babies per year in the city of Philadelphia – nearly 5,000 – are delivered at PAH, which has been at the forefront of neonatal services for over half a century. Approximately 40 percent of the infants born at PAH are from high-risk pregnancies and about half of those babies require advanced neonatal care. Many are born at very low birth weights, as low as just one pound – small enough to wear diapers barely larger than tea bags. These special babies require high-tech care as they learn to breathe, grow and gain weight. They receive close monitoring in high-tech isolettes, during stays that sometimes exceed several months until babies are developed and well enough to go home. The ICN staff and patient families often form close bonds during this time.

National data show that PAH consistently ranks among the best centers in the US for outcomes of these preterm infants. The Hospital’s Level III ICN currently houses 45 bassinets, including intensive care and transitional care sections. The Level III nursery – the highest level of medical care available – is staffed by physicians from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and nurses who specialize in infant intensive care.

“Our special little patients have all had to fight so hard to make their way into the world. It is so gratifying and heartwarming to see them running around and having a ball,” added Dr. Gerdes.

For a special PAH ICN success story see: From Neonatal Intensive Care to College, This Baby’s Come a Long Way.


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