Familes laud NICU program

By Jeremy Thompson, Staff Writer

Susie and Shane McMullin have only one thing on their Christmas list this year: their son Ryker to be alive and home for the holidays.

The McMullins are worried because Ryker was born prematurely at fewer than 30 weeks, a full two months prior to Susie’s full term due date. As a result, he has spent the past month in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at the U Hospital.

On Saturday, Susie, Shane and their four other children celebrated Christmas by recognizing children and families who have survived their stay in the NICU, some of whom don’t survive their first year.

“In the state of Utah, one out of every nine births is premature, which means almost 600 babies annually come to the U’s NICU,” said Becky Hatfield, parent support coordinator for Parent to Parent. “With an average of 40 to 50 babies present at any time, and most babies staying about two weeks, we have a big challenge in front of us when we try to help these families.”

The March of Dimes Utah Chapter has joined Parent to Parent to help provide resources to families facing this challenge.

“We provide support for the family in any way possible,” said Stephen McDonald, program services director for the March of Dimes Utah Chapter. “Through this partnership, we provide specialists to help with the child, but more importantly, with the family. When this happens to a child, it doesn’t affect just them. It affects everyone around them.”

Katie and Nate Gailey joined their now-healthy 2-year-old daughter Samantha at the party. Samantha was born at 26 weeks, and spent months in the U’s NICU. The Gailey family said it is grateful for the chance to see old friends and to look back and feel grateful for the NICU.

“It was awesome,” Nate Gailey said. “Very family-friendly and very accommodating.”

Other families echoed that sentiment.

“They treated my baby with the same care I would have treated her with,” said Pina Carrasco, whose 3-year-old daughter Natalia spent three months in the NICU after being born at 25 weeks. “I hated to let my baby go even for a second, but they made us feel comfortable enough that it was OK.”

Sue Brown, a retired nurse at the party who helped take care of babies in the NICU for 11 years before retiring this year, said parents trust nurses and doctors in the NICU with a “special gift.”

“We just try to help in any way possible, and return the child back to them healthy and happy,” she said.

With the support provided by Parent to Parent and the March of Dimes, along with the expertise of medical professionals, Susie and Shane McMullin said they are hopeful their son Ryker will be able to join them for the Christmas party next year.

“He is doing well,” Susie McMullin said. “And we are really, really hoping we can put him under the tree this year.”

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