Monday, June 9, 2008

Orlando Sentinel

Kyle and I are in Orlando, FL and having a blast! Can't wait to tell you all about our trip, but that will have to wait until we get in home.

In the meantime, thought I'd share the following article that ran in today's Orlando Sentinel:

Florida Children's Hospital reunion in Orlando celebrates preemies

When Jennifer Kupiec's water broke in a hotel room just 22 weeks into her pregnancy, her Disney vacation took a frightening turn.

"My family was a thousand miles away," the Ohio woman said.

And then after her new son was born, the doctors at Florida Children's Hospital said his chances of survival were not good.

But yesterday, Kupiec, 36, held her healthy 15-month-old son, Kyle, at a reunion for former neonatal intensive-care patients and their families. The safari-themed party at Orlando Junior Academy -- complete with a moon bounce, crafts, clowns and a disc jockey -- gave patients and their families a chance to share their stories and reunite with their former doctors and nurses.

Kupiec flew in for the event out of appreciation for the care her son received. In February, they also visited the hospital for Kyle's first birthday.

"It just didn't seem right celebrating in Ohio," she said.

The hospital hosted a similar reunion six years ago. The plan was to host one every year, but the hospital never had the money. This year, hospital officials made sure to free up $5,000 for the party, plus an additional $2,000 in donations.

"We wanted to tell the families, 'Hey, we still care about you,' " said Wanda Perara, administrative nurse manager of the neonatal intensive-care unit.

Since the unit opened in 1983, it has treated nearly 11,000 babies, most of them premature. But full-term babies born with life-threatening diseases also are taken in.

Neonatologist Jim Rawlings said he has bonded with many of his patients and their families.

Dr. Jim Rawlings visits with former patients Kyle Kupiec and Rylee Davis

during a reunion Sunday at Orlando Junior Academy.

"They're going through one of the most trying times in their lives with a recently born critically ill baby," he said. "Anyone who offers them help and care will have a special place in their hearts."

Doctors and nurses also said they often made friends with the tiny patients.

In one case, that bond has lasted two decades.
Tranica Hardy, 20, came to the reunion with her former nurse, Anna Daverman, who is now her godmother. Originally from Cocoa, Hardy lives with Daverman in west Orlando. Hardy wants to go to school in the area and eventually work in neonatal care, paying forward the help she received.
"I like it," she said. "I think it's really cool to take care of babies."

Hardy was born prematurely in Texas after 26 weeks' gestation and was transferred to Florida Children's Hospital three months later. Her heart and lungs had not fully formed and she had trouble breathing. Daverman took care of her every day that she worked for 15 months.

In addition to former patients getting reacquainted with doctors and nurses, spontaneous reunions popped up between families that had babies in the same unit. The Kupiecs joined three other families they recognized from the hospital.
Kyle and John Michael Chicarelli

In the group was Kristie Chicarelli, 36, of Eustis, who came with her 16-month-old son, John Michael."We thought it would be really rewarding just to see other babies and share stories," she said.

Her story, she said, was harrowing: she got sick with cholestasis, a liver disorder, and had to deliver John Michael by emergency Cesarean section 29 weeks into her pregnancy.

"When he was born, he wasn't breathing," she said. "They didn't say 'boy,' 'girl,' anything. They just said, 'Time 5:23,' and took him to the NICU. I didn't see him for another hour and when I saw him again he had tubes everywhere."
John Michael spent 38 days in intensive care and is now in good health, Chicarelli said.

"We call him terror on two feet," she said. "He's into everything. We just feel so blessed."


Nan said...

I so hate that I was so close to having the chance to meet you, but missed it by just a few days! Is that weird to say? I just think you have such a sweet heart and it would have been "neat." I did think of you in Disney World though. Hope you had a wonderful time and that the airport stuff worked out!

McMommy said...

How neat!!! You all are famous!!

Breanne said...

We had so much fun with you guys. Hopefully soon we can come up and see you. As you could tell it is just hard with Rylee. She is not much of a traveler. I guess I should try before she is 2 so we don't have to pay for a plane seat. Would that be 2 real age or 2 adjusted age??? Good question.

Fire Hunt said...

That is so cool:) I hope that you had a wonderful trip!

Wendi said...

How wonderful for you and Kyle!
What a blessing to go back and reunite with other families.
Keep us posted.

krissy said...

A wonderful post. Very neat. I wish I was in Orlando right now though so I do have a hint of jealousy.

You are very blessed....that's for sure.

Kristen said...

Truly a blessing!

Glad to hear that you are reuniting with other families. That must really be fun!

Cute pics of you and Kyle too! :)

Have a great time!

Mandy said...

What a great write up!

Stephanie said...

That story gave me chills - it is so moving! What amazing care this hospital shows! I'm so glad you got to go back for that.

E and T said...

What a wonderful celebration and such a caring team at that hospital. It sounds like a reunion filled with truly remarkable people.


Lisa said...

What an amazing story and what a blessing such a great hospital was 2000 miles from home :)

Angie said...

Wow thanks for sharing this. It is awesome to read this and see your triumph.