OVERLAND PARK, Mo. -- Halloween came early for NICU graduates at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission hospital Sunday.
"We are here because my son Simon was born 5 years ago and we were in Shawnee Missions NICU for 77 days," said mother Rachel Francis, standing in front of her son, who was dressed like FLASH. "It was a roller coaster. The first few days Simon fought for his life. I was pretty unstable; Simon was actually 3 days old before I was able to hold him."
Francis was joined with other parents to celebrate the health of their children.
"We’re so thankful we were here at Shawnee mission," she explained. "We were here for so long that the nurses and staff really became a part of our family."
Francis told FOX4 that her son was just over three pounds when he was born at 26 weeks but today her five-year-old is healthy and thriving.
"He’s amazing. He truly is our miracle and we come back every year because the nurses and doctors and staff are part of our family," she said. "They love to see him grow."
FOX4 also spoke to Lauren Brown, who has been a NICU nurse at Shawnee Mission for six years.
"We’re here to celebrate all these graduates who have sent so much time in our NICU," she said smiling. " We get to see them again and hug them; it’s nice to be able to see them outside of the NICU."
Brown said that she and many nurses bond with families during their time in the NICU.
"We’re taking care of their babies and we're taking care of them too. It’s not just just get in and get out. It’s about the whole family."
This is the 11th annual NICU graduation celebration for AdventHealth.