One of the biggest moments of the year for us was the opening of the Milestone building for the Children's Hospital of Illinois in August 2010. This was a project that had been in the works for many years, and we were able to watch much of its development over the previous year, during all of our trips to and from the hospital. And when the work was finally completed, we were able to take a couple tours of the new facility, and then we were there to help transition the NICU families from the old unit to the new unit on the day of the big move.
A lot of work and planning goes into moving the hospital's tiniest and most fragile patients, and everyone involved did a fabulous job. Our job, as NICU graduate parents, was to provide support for the NICU parents as their babies were transported through the many halls and elevators to their new home.
We were very excited to show these families all of the perks of the new NICU, and these families that made the transition were for the most part also very excited to make the move.
The old NICU was basically 5 large rooms, containing anywhere from 4-8 babies or more in each. They were referred to as Room 1, Room 2, Room 3, Room 4, and 1218, which was on a different floor. There was no such thing as privacy. The new NICU is set up completely different, with "neighborhoods" and each baby has his or her own room. That's right. Private rooms for every baby! And they have twin rooms also, so parents don't have to divide their time between rooms anymore.
The new unit is state of the art, and it is beautiful. :) We were so excited to be a part of the transition.
But I have to say that participating in this monumentous event stirred some feelings in me that I did not expect.
As the babies were paraded out of the rooms, I felt surprisingly sad.
Seeing Room 1, the most critical room, where both Lenay and Campbell spent their first days of life, empty?
It made me feel empty too.
And Eric and I walked the very last family out of 1218, where Campbell spent her last few weeks before being discharged about a year before. As we did, I glanced back at the now vacant space, and the memories came flooding back. We had been there for so many weeks. So many emotions.
Finally taking Campbell home to join her sister and brother after 10 weeks in the hospital so we could finally be a family. It happened right here. In this room.
And now it was empty.
It can be compared to buying a new home. You are really excited about your new home. It is nicer. It is bigger. It has so many things that you didn't have in your old house.
But you have so many memories in that old house. Maybe you got married or started your family there. And it can be hard to leave it!
Like I said, it really took me by surprise. I didn't expect to feel that way about the old NICU. Part of me felt sad that when the girls get bigger and we take them back to visit, they won't be able to see where they got their start. Where their mom and dad sat at their bedsides and stared at them in their little plastic houses. And held their tiny hands through the open isolette doors.
But I am so happy for the current and future NICU families. They will never know the old NICU and will probably never know how good they have it in the new facility, but thats okay :) They are making their own memories with their sweet babies and thats what is important.