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Saint Francis-Bartlett gathers its celebrating NICU families

The Voss family and the nurses that cared for Lilly (center) met up again with the family at the Saint Francis-Bartlett NICU reunion. They include, from left, Cammie Martin, Christy Brooks, Stephanie Meador, Caroline Evans, Lilley Claire Voss, Collins Voss, Lesley Voss, Lisa Bevels, Karen Holland, Janice Padgett and Kim Brewer.

The Voss family and the nurses that cared for Lilly (center) met up again with the family at the Saint Francis-Bartlett NICU reunion. They include, from left, Cammie Martin, Christy Brooks, Stephanie Meador, Caroline Evans, Lilley Claire Voss, Collins Voss, Lesley Voss, Lisa Bevels, Karen Holland, Janice Padgett and Kim Brewer. Courtesy photo.

Joseph Wright, 6, is one of the happy children who enjoyed an afternoon sliding, getting a pony ride, and enjoying other festivities at the NICU reunion at Saint Francis-Bartlett this Saturday. Photo by John Collins.

Joseph Wright, 6, is one of the happy children who enjoyed an afternoon sliding, getting a pony ride, and enjoying other festivities at the NICU reunion at Saint Francis-Bartlett this Saturday. Photo by John Collins.

Several hundred children, ranging in age from less than a year to 12 years old, attended the Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) reunion on Saturday. The reunion brought together nurses, doctors and other caregivers with the babies they once cared for at Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett.

“It’s exciting to see so many familiar faces here at the NICU reunion,” said Lisa Bevels, neonatal intensive care nurse. “Many of these children spent several days with us soon after their birth. As a nurse, it’s a great feeling to see healthy babies leave the NICU and go home with their families.”

One of those was the Voss family. Collins and Lesley Voss closed on their new house in Ripley on the morning of Dec. 5, 2014. The last thing they were planning on doing that day was having a baby.

“After we closed on the house, we headed down to Memphis,” explained Lesley. “I was 26 weeks pregnant, so I had a checkup scheduled with the doctor. After that, we were planning on going Christmas shopping and having dinner to celebrate our new house.”

However, those plans quickly changed. At the doctor’s office, it was discovered that Lesley’s blood pressure was high. An ultrasound revealed little movement by the baby in the womb. Lesley was immediately sent to Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett for more tests.

“The doctor had originally said we may be having a baby that night,” said Collins. “As a result of complications with the baby’s heart rate and my wife’s blood pressure, the doctor said, ‘You’re having a baby right now!’ That was at 8:32 p.m. Lilly Claire was born at 9:31.”

Lilly was born healthy but weighed less than two pounds. To put in perspective just how small she was, Collins could take his wedding ring, put it over Lilly’s foot, and slide it all the way up her leg. Lilly would spend the next five weeks in the Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett NICU.

Lesley and Collins made the 75-minute trip from Ripley to Bartlett every day to see their daughter. It was a physically and mentally exhausting time for the couple, and they came to rely upon the nurses in the hospital’s NICU.

“We couldn’t be here every minute of every day, but we had total trust in the nurses that were caring for Lilly,” said Lesley. “Anything we needed or wanted, they would do their best to help with. One of the nurses was going to be out of town over the holidays, and she even offered to let us stay at her house. We will never forget that kindness.”

Over the next several weeks, Lilly grew and built up her strength. On Jan. 16, 2015, she finally was able to join Lesley and Collins in their new home.

“It’s great to be at the reunion and to see the nurses that helped us so much,” said Lesley. “Even after we left the hospital, we would call or text them with questions, and they were always willing to help. They were so concerned about all three of us. I don’t believe we could have gotten better care anywhere.”

“It was amazing how close we became with the people taking care of Lilly,” said Collins. “I know this is a NICU reunion, but for us it really feels like a family reunion.”

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