Father's Day 5K benefits caregiving and treatment at NICU nursery
"No one expects to have a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)," says Dr. Maria Pane, M.D., who works in neonatal-perinatal medicine at GBMC HealthCare. "Most parents do not know much about having an infant in the NICU unless they experience it."
GBMC is hoping to increase awareness about the needs of premature babies with its Father's Day 5K and 1-mile Walk. The event benefits the NICU, specifically the brand-new special care nursery that opened there this year.
Designed for babies who are close to going home, the special care nursery fulfilled a need for more space and an increased emphasis on the parent/child connection, Dr. Pane explains.
"There are five brand-new rooms for growing preemies – including a room to accommodate twins – who don't need the intensive care of the NICU but still require a little extra attention. Rooms include newly designed chairs to encourage skin-to-skin bonding, as well as developmentally appropriate mobiles and therapies," Dr. Pane says.
In addition to the new nursery, the NICU team has implemented two new programs in the past year. One helps families better understand and aid in the development of their preemies, and the other deals with bereavement and the grieving process for families who have had a baby pass away.
The special care nursery expands the current Level III NICU at GBMC, which helps about 400 babies annually who are born too small, too sick, or too soon. Dr. Pane says the Father's Day 5K is a chance for the families of NICU babies to meet and celebrate everything they've experienced.
"The race takes place annually not only to raise money, but also to bring families of NICU graduates together. It takes many people to take care of a NICU baby – the parents and extended family and the entire NICU team. Race day is a great day to reunite families and staff," Dr. Pane says.
Dr. Pane says it doesn't matter how long a baby is in the NICU. The experience stays with the family long after their baby leaves the hospital.
"Even if the baby is only in the NICU a few hours or up to several months, they develop close relationships with the caregivers and healthcare providers. We are a family," she says.
This year, the race will combine limited in-person participants with virtual runners and walkers. The in-person event will be held Sunday, June 20 at 8 a.m. while virtual participants will have the option to log miles between Thursday, June 17, and Sunday, June 20 at 11:59 p.m. Because of generous donations made through the Father's Day 5K, the NICU at GBMC can provide comprehensive, compassionate care for every baby born in the hospital.
If you'd like to participate in the event or make a donation, please visit www.gbmc.org/5K.