Graduation season is upon us, and at Overland Park Regional Medical Center, their graduates’ journies are different than most. Once preemie patients in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), alumni and their families exit those hospital doors with renewed hope for the future.
But how would one celebrate their 10-year graduation from the NICU? For triplets Luke, Taya and Brady Swarts, that’s simple – bring gifts to the current students.
The former NICU grads of the HCA-affiliated Kansas hospital recently returned to celebrate their 10th birthday, and in rare pre-teen fashion, requested gifts for their kindred spirits in the NICU instead of presents for themselves. The mini-philanthropists dubbed it “Project Preemie.”
The trio received more than 200 pairs of pajamas from their friends, relatives and schoolmates to donate to families, who oftentimes, aren’t prepared to have a baby in the NICU, much less have preemie clothes.
“The triplets’ donation highlights the spirit of family that defines our NICU,” Dr. Kathleen Weatherstone, medical director of Overland Park Regional Medical Center’s NICU, said. “We’re so thankful for their creative generosity, and humbled to be a part of something so special.”
A mini-reunion of sorts, Luke, Taya and Brady spent three weeks in the Overland Park Level III neonatal intensive care unit, before their symbolic graduation march out into the real world.
“It’s rewarding to see our NICU graduates thriving,” Dr. Weatherstone said. “This reunion was particularly meaningful because it was a decade ago we helped care for the Swarts. And after 10 years, they took it upon themselves to not only come back, but to give back.”
That’s hope for our future, for sure.
Meet the triplets and watch their PJ Preemie Project on NBC affiliate KSHB Action News below. You can also read more on their story on Good Morning America online here.
Since opening in 1991, the Overland Park Regional Medical Center’s NICU has cared for more than 5,000 babies, and currently care for an average of 46 preemies each day.