VALHALLA, N.Y. For Abby Lester, the Maria Fareri Childrens Hospital was once a place filled with anxiety and fear. Today, its a place she can go to celebrate.
I can come back here and I feel such a sense of comfort, said Lester, a resident of Yonkers. They saved the life of my child.
Lesters son Casey, now 3 years old, is one of many children who was born prematurely at the hospitals Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (RNICU). Each year, the hospital cares for hundreds of babies who are born as prematurely as 24 weeks into the pregnancy and initially weigh as little as less than one pound. On Thursday, the hospital celebrated the units 30th anniversary by inviting hundreds of its former patients and family members for an afternoon of fun on the Valhalla grounds.
In the ICU, there arent even windows there when the patients are being treated, said Dr. Edmund LaGamma, director of the RNICU. So to see our former patients come back here, outside playing as healthy children, is a very special moment.
The grounds were filled with blow-up bounce houses, clowns, music and food for the guests enjoyment. Dr. Lance Parton, associate director of the RNICU, said the event represented the progress the unit has made over the course of three decades.
Today its not just that these children can survive and are functioning, Parton said. Theyre fully healthy children just as everyone else and thats because of the treatment they were able to receive here.
Jennifer Eckert of Walden, N.Y. was at the event with her 9-month-old daughter Zoe who was released from the hospital unit in January. Eckert said it was a great moment to see her daughters former doctors and nurses in a different environment for once.
Its nice to be here at the hospital for a positive reason, Eckert said. Im just looking forward to speaking with and thanking everyone for saving Zoes life.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.