Once fragile newborns, 'graduates' of NICU meet their hospital caregivers

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Stephanie and Joseph Crisostomo and daughter Willow. UCLA

Tiny 11-month-old Willow Crisostomo will never remember all the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who took care of her for the first six months of her life, but her parents Joseph and Stephanie Crisostomo will never forget them.

The family attended the 28th Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Reunion Sunday, Oct. 12, at Wilson Plaza to meet up with the nurses who cared for her at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital — all garbed in purple Team Willow T-shirts for the occasion. Willow, an extreme micro-preemie when she was born at only 22 weeks and four days, weighed in at less than a pound when she entered the NICU.

"The NICU team is like family, and it is wonderful to come back and see everyone,” said her parents, who brought the matching T-shirts for the nurses. “We are so grateful for all that they did.”

The reunion, which is held every two years and is organized by UCLA nurses, brought together approximately 300 NICU graduates and their parents with the nurses, doctors and other health care professionals from Mattel in Westwood and UCLA Health - Santa Monica Medical Center. The NICU is where medically fragile newborns, including micro-preemies as well as full-term babies who are born with life-threatening illnesses, are cared for until they are able to go home.

Party-goers enjoyed a petting zoo, bounce house, puppet show, face-painting, lunch and even a rousing performance by the UCLA Bruin Marching Band.