A barbecue at Elk’s Riverside Park on Saturday helped families and care providers celebrate 46 years of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Benefis Health System (formally the Montana Deaconess Hospital).
The event, which is held every two years, reunited families and children who experienced the NICU with their nurses and doctors.
Staci Griffin, a registered nurse at the NICU, said it’s nice for families to come back and see those who helped them through a challenging time in their lives.
"When these babies are brought into the NICU, they’re either very small or very sick and so over the course of their hospital stay, we get to know their families and the babies themselves very well," Griffin said. "Once they’re discharged, it’s just always really fun for them to come back and see us and we get to see how well they’ve done and their milestones that they’re meeting."
Griffin said the unit admits about 250 babies every year for various reasons. The babies are not only born at Benefis, but also come from across the state.
Sometimes the babies have to be transported out of state to places like Seattle or Salt Lake City.
The NICU has about 25 nurses, one neonatal nurse practitioner, and two neonatologists.
"We also work a lot with respiratory, speech therapy, it’s a wide variety of specialities that take care of these infants and several of those specialities are here today," Griffin said.
She added that the celebration also planned to honor the babies who passed away too soon by placing flowers in the river.
The Family Advisory Committee at Benefis Health System provides support for families who have a child currently in neonatal care.
To learn more about the committee, which is comprised of volunteer parents who had babies in the NICU, you can contact the neonatal unit at (406) 731-8720.