STREETERVILLE — For Kerri Byler, the drive from her home in Roscoe Village to Northwestern’s Prentice Women’s Hospital gives her anxiety. Last year, her and her husband made the trek to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit daily for more than a month after her twins — a son and daughter — were born eight weeks early.
“It was interesting to take that same drive in today,” said Byler. “I could feel my chest get tight, but this time we’re here for a happy reason.”
Byler is happy that her twins, Josie and Knox , are happy, healthy and “huge” — baby Knox is in the 98th percentile for height.
But she was also happy to join more than 300 people at the NICU reunion Saturday — an event that reunited families and children who spent time in the NIC unit with the nurses and doctors who took care of them.
“All in one day you get to connect with so many people and really show them how important they are to you,” said Jodi Simonelli, who has been an NICU nurse for 18 years and managed the neonatal unit for seven years.
Simonelli said it’s great to see the children she cared for as babies all grown up.
“When you think about how small and fragile they were in the unit and now to see them here, so playful, healthy and doing well. It’s so amazing,” Simonelli said.
Just two and a half years ago, Simonelli cared for Jennifer Mullman’s daughter, Jocelyn, throughout her 22-day stay in the NICU.
“It was very family centered,” said Mullman, who was joined by her husband, son and Jocelyn. “It’s not just caring for the babies but also caring for the family.”
Mullman said Jodi and the other nurses in the NICU helped empower her and helped her take control of Jocelyn’s care. She said she was surprised when Jocelyn was born early at just over 3 pounds because her first pregnancy with her son was “textbook.”
“It was scary for me,” Mullman said. “The baby had so many wires on her. The nurses really empowered me.”
“We have to be so in tune with families needs because we don’t get a second chance to impact the birth and the beginning first days of a family’s life together,” said Heather Keirnan, director of women’s health at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“It’s all about connective-ness,” Keirnan said.