For her 10th birthday, Brianna Matkowski’s mother surprised her with a trip to visit St. Boniface Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where Brianna had been a newborn patient.
Brianna and her mom, Andrée, came to the Hospital from the northern Manitoba city of Thompson, for a guided tour with Kate Whitton, Program Team Manager for the NICU.
Brianna, now a Grade 5 student, was under five pounds when she was born at 32 weeks in November 2009. She spent two weeks in the Hospital’s NICU before Andrée and her husband, Rob, could take her home.
Brianna always had questions for her mom about her start in life. “She’s asked, ‘How small was I? What was the NICU like?’ I thought, at 10 she’s old enough to see for herself,” said Andrée.
In the NICU, Brianna got to see preemies that were the same size she had been. She peered at the monitors she had been hooked up to as a baby, fascinated by the equipment that alerts caregivers to changes in a baby’s heartbeat or breathing rate.
“Do you remember me, Brianna? You looked a little different back then,” joked Ian, a respiratory therapist in the NICU.
“The care was amazing,” said Andrée.
“They took great care of Brianna in the NICU. I’m forever grateful to the excellent staff.”
Visits from NICU graduates like Brianna are not uncommon at St. Boniface Hospital. “A couple of times each month, parents come in with our graduates just to say hi or drop off photos,” said Whitton.
“Our NICU provides care to babies from all over Manitoba, northern Ontario and even Nunavut. So, I think a lot more of those families would probably like to come back to visit, if it wasn’t a 700-kilometer drive .”
NICU caregivers welcome visits from graduates and their families. “We can never tell who they’ll grow up to become,” says Whitton.
Each year in October, the NICU celebrates graduates at its Harvest Party in the Hospital’s Everett Atrium, an event supported in part by St. Boniface Hospital Foundation donors.