LRMC’s tiniest patients reunite, share progress and hope

Thomas Warner
LRMC Public Affairs

***image1***Most babies who are born early will need prioritized and special care.
Some babies are born at full-term and may have special issues and need
care in the neonatal intensive care unit.

The Landstuhl Regional Medical Center neonatal intensive care unit has
plans to reunite families of these young patients with the staff who
treated them.
Known as the NIC-U, the unit will sponsor a reunion July 15 in Heaton
Auditorium. The event will be from noon to 2 p.m. and all children born
in the LRMC neonatal unit are invited with their families.

Although many of the children born here have long since gone with their
parents to a permanent change of station, organizers hope to see a
large contingent of people who are still in the area.

“Our invitations went out two weeks ago and they were sent primarily to
parents of kids born in the past year,” said neonatal nurse Andrea
“Anyone, though, who was born in our unit, in any year since the hospital has been open, is welcomed to attend.”

The neonatal unit treats babies who are born pre-term and others who
arrive at full-term but develop problems during and after birth.
Missions are done to pick up babies from all over Europe and to Medevac
others who need treatment to hospitals in the States.

“They actually flew a mission back to Walter Reed (hospital) with three
babies recently,” Ms. Noggle said. “Things like heart and lung bypasses
we can’t do here at Landstuhl. There is no pediatric surgeon here. So,
when there is heart surgery done, that’s back in the States.”

Parents of one set of triplets, possibly the first to be born at Landstuhl, have already replied back to say they will attend.

The event coordinators are urging all who plan to attend to call ahead and confirm attendance.

***image2***“Here at LRMC, we are the only NIC-U in the European military
community,” Ms. Noggle said. “I’ve worked in other NIC units and these
types of reunions are always special events. The entire staff has gone
to great lengths to make sure it will be successful and rewarding.

“We want everyone who is coming to take a moment to RSVP with a call or
by returning the card. That way we will be able to get an accurate
count for how much food we need to supply and the space we’ll need.”

Dr. Dan Dirnberger is head of the NIC-U here, but will be leaving soon
to PCS. His successor as head of the department, Dr. Steve Olsen, has
been working here for two years.

“We have a team of 18 nurses, four medical technicians and four
doctors,” Dr. Olsen said. “On average, we have five or six babies a day
being cared for in our unit. A lot come through here during any year
and we enjoy seeing how the babies are growing and progressing. It’s a
chance for people to renew friendships they created while they were

Relationships developed at the hospital are strong, whether in the
NIC-U, the post-partum section or the labor and delivery. The process
works both ways – for hospital staff and families.

“It’s going to be amazing for some of these nurses and staff who have
been here a while,” Ms. Noggle said. “They had reunions when I was at
the hospital at Lester Naval Air Station in Okinawa, Japan. We need
this over here. Patients and families and the professionals working at
a hospital all develop close bonds.”

Several organizations and people have pitched in to help sponsor the
reunion, including pastoral services and individual staff members.

“With every pregnancy you automatically assume that everything is going
to be fine,” Dr. Olsen said. “When the babies are born and they aren’t
fine, it’s a shock. That’s why we are here. To get them back to the way
they were anticipating before they were born.

“We want to see as many of these people as possible again. We want to see how they are doing.”