Doernbecher hosts reunion for NICU families, staff

The NICU is for premature babies and newborns who need extra care

Baby Lucia McKenzie was born 3 and a half months early and spent 100 days in the NICO at Doernbecher. (KOIN)
Baby Lucia McKenzie was born 3 and a half months early and spent 100 days in the NICO at Doernbecher. (KOIN)


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Doernbecher Children’s Hospital hosted a special party Saturday to reunite staff and families with babies who spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit. 

Giselle McKenzie's daughter Lucia was born 3 and a half months early and spent 100 days in the NICO at Doernbecher. (KOIN)
Giselle McKenzie’s daughter Lucia was born 3 and a half months early and spent 100 days in the NICO at Doernbecher. (KOIN)

One of those babies was Giselle and Kylan McKenzie’s daughter, who was born at 25 weeks — about 3 and a half months early.

“We had no idea that she was coming,” Giselle said. “It just happened.”

The families and their “hospital families” had fun at Arbor Lodge Park playing with balloons, getting their faces painted and celebrating life.

“Sometimes we’re very worried about the babies and how they’ll grow up and then we see them here and they’re running around and doing what they need to be doing,” Doernbecher’s head of neonatology Dr. Bob Schelonka said. “It’s really terrific.”

Now Lucia McKenize is healthy and nearly 17 months old after spending her first 100 days of life in the NICU. Giselle said it’s bittersweet to leave the NICU after spending so much time with the people there.

“You miss the doctors and nurses,” Giselle said. “It’s a weird feeling. You don’t want to be there anymore because it’s a hospital, and waking up every morning to see her and leaving her every night was super hard but then you leave all these nurses that you’ve talked to all day long and doctors you see and it becomes a routine and a family and to leave all that truly is bittersweet.”

The McKenzies said they’ve kept in touch with many of the staff members and other families, but it was great to see them at the party.

“Everybody went through a lot,” Kylan said. “Good to see that they can come through on the other end and smile and be happy and get through all the scariness in one piece.”

Baby Lucia McKenzie was born 3 and a half months early and spent 100 days in the NICO at Doernbecher. (KOIN)