NICU families reunite with hospital staff at 11th annual AdventHealth Shawnee Mission celebration

Luke and Blair Harvey with their son Rex, who spent his first two months in the neonatal intensive care unit at AdventHealth – Shawnee Mission.

Young Rex Harvey was back on familiar ground Sunday afternoon — but with parents who were a good deal less anxious than when he made his debut nine months ago.

Blair and Luke Harvey of Lenexa were attending their second birthing class at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission early this year when Blair felt the first signs of labor. But because she wasn’t due for another two-plus months, she didn’t think much of it. Early the next morning, though, it was clear that Rex was on his way, and the first-time parents rushed to the birth center at the hospital. He entered the world after 29 weeks in gestation, weighing just under four pounds.

AdventHealth Shawnee Mission staff met with former NICU families at the celebration Sunday.

Having their first child arrive prematurely was an understandable shock to the Harveys. Rex was immediately admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit, where he was hooked up to machinery to monitor his vital signs and help him breathe.

“It is scary,” Luke said. “You don’t know what to expect.”

But, the Harveys say, the guidance and counsel of hospital staff helped put them at ease and allowed them to weather the stresses of having a kid in the NICU. After two months in the NICU, Rex was healthy enough to go home with mom and dad.

On Sunday, four months after Rex was discharged, the Harveys had a chance to reunite with some of the staff members who were at their side through the period. On a patch of green lawn adjacent to the hospital’s birth center, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission hosted its 11th annual celebration honoring families who have had children in the NICU.

Many of the kids — some now several years old — dressed up in Halloween costumes and worked in a little trick-or-treating among the activities, including face painting and a petting zoo.

Luke and Blair said it was wonderful to get to reunite with some of the nurses and physicians who had been with them through Rex’s first months — relationships that become very important to parents in such situations.

“You get real close real quick,” said Luke of the hospital staff who cared for Rex.

“They really are like a counselor,” Blair said. “They know what life in the NICU is like, but you don’t know. They’re really helpful to talk you through it. They’re good listeners when you’re having your meltdowns.”