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Boston Globe: Reunion celebrates lives of children born prematurely


Reunion celebrates lives of children born prematurely

By Miriam Valverd

Globe Correspondent / October 23, 2011

Photo: Staff / Suzanne Kreiter

Count Dracula proudly glanced around the room filled with ballerinas, super heroes and walking pumpkins. Children, many of whom weighed less than two pounds when they were born, roamed around in costumes, playing and creating works of art and craft. Parents, nurses and doctors recalled more difficult times — times when the families were at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton for less lighthearted reasons.

Affiliated with Children’s Hospital Boston, the unit serves families with children born ill or prematurely. At today’s gathering, the families reunited with the medical personnel who treated their children, and celebrated the children’s success.

This year’s theme was Halloween, and Spider Man, Minnie Mouse, and a giraffe wandered the room as Dracula — a.k.a Enrique Testa, an obstetrician at St. Elizabeth’s — looked and parents beamed.

“They got us through the hardest days,” Laura Morrison, 43, of Framingham, said of the staff. “It was a roller coaster ride. I’d never thought I would be here, celebrating.”

Morrison said her 10-year-old son, Sean, was born at 23 weeks of gestation, much earlier than the average of 40 weeks, and weighed one pound 11 ounces. She said she spent fourand-half months in the hospital after giving birth, waiting for Sean to grow strong enough so they could go home.

“Every day they would tell me there was a 20 percent chance he would live another day,” Morrison said, standing a few feet away from Sean, who was wearing the jersey of his favorite football player, Wes Welker.

Testa said he did not recognize some of the kids, since they were so much bigger and healthier than when he delivered them.

“It feels fantastic being here,” Testa said. “Seeing them all grown and healthy definitely makes my job worthwhile.”

Julia Novick, 2, of North Attleborough, walked around with a stethoscope around her neck and sported a white and green medical coat with the name tag “Hi, I’m nurse Charlene”. The girl dressed up as the nurse that cared for her when she was born and weighed just 2 pounds and 13 ounces.

“She wanted to be a nurse, and who better than nurse Charlene?” said Julia’s father, Bill Novick, 36.

The families also brought unwrapped toys as donations to benefit the US Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.

Jay Correia, 21, of Brighton, a sophomore pre-med student at Northeastern University who was volunteering at the reunion, said he weighed just 2 pounds 12 ounces when he was born at 28 weeks. “People usually feel bad for premature babies,” he said. “But we can grow to be healthy and normal just like everyone else.”

Miriam Valverde can be reached at