Children celebrate milestones at Memorial Children's NICU reunion

South Bend, Ind. Hundreds of area children gathered at Memorial’s HealthWorks! Kids Museum Sunday for a very special reunion. The youngsters and their families were former patients of Memorial Children’s Hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit.

Dr. Olufemi Okanlami, a pediatrician specializing in newborn intensive care, has been working at the hospital for just shy of 20 years.

“The best way I can put it is: this is the best day of the year. It gives you the zest to go on for at least another year,” Okanlami said. “Seeing how well the children are doing and how happy the families are and looking back on those difficult weeks of life – we are able to say thank God.”

Shauna Olesen and her husband, Steve, found the NICU to be an extremely comforting place during their hardest times. Their twins, Mason and Brody, were born two months premature and unable to breathe on their own.

“It was wonderful, the nurses were wonderful,” Olesen said. “I would be able to call in the middle of the night if I wanted to check in and make sure they were doing great.”

Today the twins are 11-months-old and almost completely caught up in size and development.

“They can say ‘dada’, ‘baba’, but no mama yet,” she said. “They're each about 20 pounds now getting to where they're supposed to be.”

It’s success stories like Mason and Brody that Dr. Okanlami says keep him coming back year after year.

“It gives you a reason to do more, You learn from it. We are glad about their success,” he said. “There are situations that, despite our best efforts, things don't turn out too well. But we still have families coming back. It gives you the energy to want to do better.”

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