PINEHURST — Social media sites have been flooded with back-to-school photos in recent days.
Some of them show big smiles and a remarkable amount of growth from one year to the next, and many involve proud parents sharing the next milestone for their children. And, of course, they are a good reminder that first-day-of-school fashion choices are always changing.
FirstHealth’s Tiffany Pate shared photos of her daughter, Addilyn, prior to her first day of first grade at Grace Christian School in Sanford. The photos came not long after Addilyn’s 6th birthday, which is also a time when Pate thinks back to her daughter’s first weeks in the world, many of which were spent at Clarke NICU at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.
Pate is looking back and sharing her journey during Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month, which is held each September and is designed to honor NICU patients, their families and the NICU professionals who care for them.
Pate said she still remembers how much her life changed in 2016. She was 32 weeks pregnant with Addilyn in late July.
“On July 28, I had been working all day and my head was killing me. The nurses checked my blood pressure, and it was high, so I went to the emergency room at Moore Regional Hospital. Little did I know that I would be in the hospital for a week, and that my daughter would arrive, too,” Pate said.
Addilyn needed extra care from the staff at Clarke NICU, and she would end staying even after Tiffany was discharged.
“I had probably never experienced anything so terrifying and difficult as hearing that my week-old baby would be in the NICU after I was discharged,” she said. “During my first night away from the hospital, I cried for hours. But my nerves began to calm after I was reassured that I could check in on her at any time and visit to feed her every three hours. In addition to taking excellent care of Addilyn, the nurses were also very comforting to me and my family.”
That comforting care is exactly how the Clarke NICU staff approach each patient. The 13-bed NICU is staffed by specially trained nurses and physicians and is family-centered to ensure that infants requiring more than routine nursery care can still have their families close by. Nicholas Lynn, M.D., medical director of Clarke NICU, said the staff works tirelessly to care for infants while supporting their families.
“We often develop these incredible bonds with the families of our patients, because our neonatologists and nurses are on the journey right along with parents,” Lynn said. “We see the ups and downs, and we can celebrate milestones long after patients leave the hospital. September is always a special month because we get to see how much our former patients have grown.”
Pate agreed, saying she is incredibly grateful for how Clarke NICU impacted her family’s life.
“I had no experience with the NICU before Addilyn but being able to have that constant contact with staff was a blessing,” Pate said. “I was so happy with the care my daughter and I received. Addilyn is very active today and no one would ever know she was a preemie.”
About NICU Awareness Month
Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month is hosted in September of every year and is designed to honor NICU patients, their families, and the NICU professionals who care for them. NICU Awareness Month fosters a supportive, empowering community for families when they are faced with life’s most challenging and difficult moments; and honors those who dedicate their lives to helping them.
FirstHealth encourages those who have interacted with Clarke NICU to post “then and now” photos on Facebook and tag the Clarke NICU page.