AUTHOR: GIBSON

HED:Quilt celebrates success of tiniest babies

Annual reunion

- Who: Children who were treated at the Women's Hospital's NICU.

- When: Saturday, 2 to 4 p.m.

- Where: Auditorium at the North Mississippi Medical Center education center at the hospital's main unit. Parking will be available in the top level of the hospital's employee parking garage.

- For more information: Call 1-800-843-3375.

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

The colorful hand and foot prints decorating the quilt could belong to any group of healthy kids born at the Women's Hospital.

That's the remarkable part for the staff at the neonatal intensive care unit at North Mississippi Medical Center Women's Hospital in Tupelo.

The hands and feet on the quilt belong to children who weighed less than 2 or 3 pounds when they were born and were treated in the NICU.

"Some of these babies were close to not making it," said Dr. Bryan Darling, a neonatologist with the Women's Hospital.

The NICU graduates will be able to admire the quilt when it is dedicated at Saturday's reunion at NMMC's education center at the main unit.

In addition to the quilt dedication, the reunion will feature refreshments, entertainment, door prizes and special appearances by a few comic book superheroes.

Quilting bee

The quilt was a year in the making. The idea was inspired by a lab coat that was made for Darling by his wife's preschool class.

"What a perfect piece of artwork" for the hospital, Darling said.

At the August 1999 reunion, the hospital staff collected the prints from graduates, said Joy Perilloux, neonatal social worker at the Women's Hospital.

The nurses cut out the squares, and Heirlooms Forever of Tupelo donated the materials and sewing expertise to put the quilt together, Perilloux said.

"It really touched me to know so many babies have been helped by the NICU in Tupelo," said Lynn Palmertree, one of the Heirlooms Forever employees who worked on the quilt. "I can't wait to see it hanging up in the hospital."

It took about three or four months and help from a sewing club to bring the quilt to completion, Palmertree said.

The quilt will be placed on display outside the Women's Hospital administrative offices after the reunion, Perilloux said.

Family reunion

The best part of the reunion is a chance for the NICU staff to see the babies and their families again.

The tiniest surviving premature babies, born 16 and 17 weeks early, often weigh in about between 1 pound, 2 ounces and 1 pound, 9 ounces, Darling said. They typically stay in NICU for about three months.

"Our staff becomes extremely attached to these babies because many of them spend a great deal of time in our intensive care nursery before they are able to go home with their parents," said John Nading, M.D., a neonatologist with the Women's Hospital. "We look forward to seeing them return for a visit."

Sharon Circus of West Point, whose daughter Shanice was born 16 weeks early and spent about three months in the NICU, said the reunions are a wonderful experience.

"Seeing them (the doctors and nurses) all over again, and their expressions when they see her" is the best part of the reunion, Circus said.

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