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Families reunite with care-givers at NICU reunion

Posted at 10:37 PM, Sep 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-09 23:37:44-04

Racheal Stramel's daughter Gretchen is a smiling, giggly infant. You wouldn't know she was born 10 weeks early and has already had multiple surgeries.

The baby girl suffered from Meconium ileus, a condition that wrecked havoc on her intestines and caused digestion problems.

"It was a long journey, but she's my first," Rachael said.

Rachael had to put her newborn through three surgeries before her first birthday.

"She was good, she's pretty happy, nothing seemed to be wrong." Rachael said. "But she had a belly the size of a balloon and they didn't know why."

They thought they were in the clear until an emergency surgery, just as Rachael returned to work. Rachael says her daughter almost died that day.

"I couldn't be there," Rachael said. "I was on the phone a lot and coworkers helped since I wasn't good at working that day."

Doctors removed 4 centimeters of Gretchen's intestines. Today, the mother and daughter were able to meet up with the nurse who saw them through it all.

NICU's Nichole Birge took care of the Stramels through four months of surgeries, late nights, and hard days. Birge is excited to see Gretchen not only get through an uncommon condition, but grow as an infant.

"She didn't have an easy road, that's for sure, Birge said. "But her mom was here every day with her she was very involved in all of her care."

Rachael is thrilled to be taking her first-born home.

"She's happy, she's healthy, she's growing like a weed," Rachael said. "It's really nice to see the people who took care of her and saved her life and got us on the right foot. It's nice to be home"

NICU saw around 75 families reunite with their life-saving doctors Sunday.