There were dozens of mothers holding babies and just as many fathers walking around with their toddlers.
Technically, all the families at the 36th Annual St. Luke’s NICU Graduate Picnic on Wednesday night at Kristin Armstrong Municipal Park in Boise weren’t related.
But there was definitely an aura of communal spirit hovering above the event – along with the hazy, hot summer air.
“It’s like a big family,” said Jake Englehorn, who just celebrated his twins’ second birthday a few days before the picnic.
Jake and Jenny Englehorn’s son, Harrison, and their daughter, Hadley, both spent time in St. Luke’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) as part of their “journeys.”
That time was an eye-opening experience for Jenny Engelhorn, who also happens to work as a nurse at St. Luke’s NICU.
“I think I’ve connected a lot more with some of these families after going through that,” she said. “Just being a parent on that side of things makes me have so much more empathy and compassion for what parents might be going through. You have a good day and a bad day. It’s just made me realize what a huge journey you can go through in the NICU.”
Jake Englehorn said that he still appreciates how the St. Luke’s NICU made a tremendously challenging time a little more bearable.
“I remember early on, it was pretty amazing to walk into NICU and to just see the level of care that they bring,” he said. “I think one of my favorite things was when I was walking into the NICU and seeing two or three doctors and two or three nurses, and they were sitting there trying to figure out how they could help (his twins). That was a moment where I thought, ‘Wow, we’re in the right place.’”
Jenny added: “I’ve never been so proud to work in the NICU. My co-workers were amazing and they took the best care of them.”
Ultimately, Wednesday’s picnic was about celebrating and acknowledging the impactful work that happens in that “right place.”
“I think both the staff and the families enjoy this picnic,” said Dr. Erik Meyers, a St. Luke’s neonatologist. “It’s kind of like closing the loop. They go through a lot with us in the NICU. So, it’s really nice to see them come back with their kids and let us know how things are going.”
Riding an inflatable dinosaur while sporting a T-shirt that proclaimed him “Funniest Neonatologist,” Dr. Meyers attracted kids of all ages at the picnic. There were plenty of smiles to go around, and those smiles meant a lot to Dr. Meyers.
“It’s definitely significant,” Dr. Meyers said of the gathering. “You bond with these families when they’re going through their hardships, and that takes a toll on them – and us. So, to get together in a more happy time and have some fun is a pleasure.“It makes me proud to be a part of St. Luke’s and the organization.”
Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.