UAMS NICU Reunion at Little Rock Zoo Draws Large Crowd

By Kaitlin Barger

Snake viewing at UAMS NICU Reunion

Snake viewing at UAMS NICU Reunion

Former NICU patients, their families and NICU staff were invited to the event. This was the first in-person reunion since the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first time to have the event at the Zoo.

Children and their families got the chance to meet some of the zoo’s animals, including a sparrow hawk, a Jalisco Milk snake, an owl, a goat, and a baby armadillo. Chiesi USA provided support for the special two-hour wildlife encounter.

There was also pizza, cupcakes, face painting, and a photo booth available.

Face painting at UAMS NICU Reunion

Face painting at the UAMS NICU Reunion.

UAMS NICU medical director Sara Peeples, M.D., said that the event is a great reunion for both families and staff who become like a second family.

“Some of our babies spend over 100 days with us in the NICU,” Peeples said. “The nursing staff really becomes a second family, so it is like a family reunion, and that is really special.”

Onethird to one-half of the 3,500 babies delivered at UAMS each year stay in one of the 64 private rooms in the NICU, some specially designed for twins.

The Lowery family

The Lowery family

Four years ago, Will Lowery was born at just 28 weeks old. He was in the UAMS NICU for 89 days.

The reunion has been a UAMS tradition for at least 20 years, and this being their first time back in person since the pandemic made this year more special.

More than 450 people attended the May 7 event.

“We appreciate our staff and the work that they do taking care of our babies and families, and we appreciate families for continuing to support us and the work that we do every day, because it really does make a difference,” Peeples said.

The staff said they look forward to continuing the tradition for years to come.