If you walked into the lobby of the bed tower at the College Station Medical Center on Saturday, you likely could not have helped but smile. Every face expressed one emotion: joy.
Parents, grandparents and other relatives gathered at The Med to celebrate the hope given to them by the Brazos Valley's only Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Gordon and Krystal Schneider were parents who needed some hope.
"I had an emergency cesarean section, and Mason was brought to the NICU as soon as he was born," Krystal said.
Their son, Mason Schneider, was delivered eight weeks premature in September 2006. Scared, his parents had some comfort knowing their son would receive help at the NICU, which officially opened in late 2005.
Access to the facility's services kept Krystal from being separated from her son.
"He would have been flown to either Houston, Dallas, or Austin," Krystal said of Mason, "and I would have had to remain here in the hospital until they released me."
Most of the parents at the NICU's celebration on Saturday shared similar, if not identical stories. All of them were happy they were able to find the best care in their own backyard.
One person responsible for bringing the NICU to the Brazos Valley was the University Pediatric Association's Dr. Christopher Saenz.
"We know that bringing a neonatal intensive to our community, we bring the best in health care for their children," Saenz said.
Approximately one out of 10 babies born will have some type of special need according to the NICU's director, Craig Steiner. He says the facility is prepared to meet their needs.
"We provide 24-hour on-site care," Steiner said. "We have nurse practitioners who stay in the hospital 24 hours-a-day, and I am available 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week to provide services."
Those services have helped the former patients of the NICU to thrive. Grateful for the care of little ones, the families' appreciation is expressed in one mother's words.
"[We are] thankful that it was here for us," Krystal Schneider said.
The NICU at The Med was able to provide urgent and specialized care for over 150 babies during 2006.