LEESBURG, Va. (WDVM) — The 15th annual Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) reunion at Inova Loudoun Hospital on was held on Saturday.
“We really wanted to be able to do an event this year so we can let our families know that, with our situation with COVID, that they’re still on our minds, we’re still here to support them,” said Lori Caslin, NICU nurse at Inova Loudoun Hospital.
The nurses held their annual reunion event with a socially-distanced drive-by parade at the hospital. Caslin began the tradition 15 years ago as a way to re-connect with children the nurses cared for as babies.
“I thought that the reunion was a wonderful way for everyone to see our staff, as well as our families, the amazing kids that we have grown here at Loudoun hospital,” she said.
Since its inception, the reunion has become a yearly tradition for many families. “We are celebrating our graduate, Hudson, and he graduated from the NICU two years ago,” said Serena Bowen, a NICU mother.
Another mother, Elizabeth Bennis, has been coming to the reunion for 16 years. “We have been coming since 2003,” she said.
The mothers say that to this day, they are grateful to the nurses for taking care of their babies all those years ago. “They wrap their arms around you like they’re family, and they care for your child like their own when you can’t be there, it’s such a blessing,” said Bowen.
Although this year’s event lacked some of the normal festivities, the parade featured a DJ, balloons, and of course, NICU graduates dressed up in costumes.
Staff and families say that they look forward to meeting new members of the NICU family, as well as seeing old ones at next year’s event. “We have families who have just gotten out of the NICU, and then there’s families like these two, who have been there 16 years ago. So it’s good to see, as we call it, the NICU family,” said Bennis.
In addition to the Loudoun Hospital NICU, the reunion was also presented by the Inova Health Foundation and March of Dimes.