Thriving NICU “graduates” celebrate good health and happiness

NICU Grad Party bubbles

For the 34th consecutive year, former Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) patients and their families, doctors and nurses came together to celebrate Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital’s tiniest former patients at the annual NICU graduation party.

Held on Sunday, September 25, the event was fun for all with activities including a bird show – complete with bike-riding birds – as well as bubble art, a petting zoo and entertainment from Violet the Clown.

Guests at the party included former patients of all ages, from babies just a year out of the NICU to teenagers who return year-after-year to thank the doctors and nurses who cared for them as preemies long ago. One former patient in attendance was 27-year-old Joshua Lukas, who was born prematurely in August of 1989, diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and transferred to the Stanford NICU where he became the 31st baby to be placed on the lifesaving treatment, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Today, he is a fourth-year medical student at Indiana University School of Medicine and is applying to residency programs in Neurology with a goal to care for babies with perinatal neurological pathologies.

Joshua Lukas with William Rhine, MD

Former NICU patient Joshua Lukas with William Rhine, MD, who cared for him as a preemie 27 years ago.

“I am alive because Stanford physicians saved my life 27 years ago,” said Lukas. “It has been my lifelong dream to come full circle by becoming a physician at Stanford and to one day care for patients in the same way Stanford physicians cared for me as a baby.”

Nurse Roberta Harryman, co-chair of the event, has been caring for NICU babies for nearly 35 years. “This annual event is a great celebration of life for the Packard Children’s NICU community. These special families look forward to seeing the nurses and doctors who cared for their children, and sharing with us how well they are thriving today,” she said. “It is rewarding for us to see the positive results of our contributions at the hospital.”

For the Perna family, the grad party was an opportunity to reflect on the progress their daughters have made over the last year. Born prematurely in 2015, twins Gracyn and Alex spent the first five weeks of their lives in the NICU and PICN (Packard Intermediate Care Nursery). Now, as they near their first birthdays this week, they are happy, healthy and thriving.

Perna family

NICU Nurses Lynn and Amy visit with the Perna family – twins Gracyn and Alex, 4-year-old brother Austin, and parents Jamie and Joe – nearly one year since the girls graduated from the NICU.

“This reunion means a lot to everyone involved,” said William Benitz, MD, chief of neonatology and leader of a team that provides nationally recognized care for approximately 1,200 of the more than 4,500 babies born at Packard Children’s each year. “The families of NICU babies experience an emotional rollercoaster during the first days and weeks of their children’s lives, and by being with others who have endured the same challenges, they’re able to establish lifelong connections.”

Discover more about Neonatology Care.


7 Responses to “Thriving NICU “graduates” celebrate good health and happiness”

  1. Martha ojeda

    How can I get information to attend to this event….I was invited only ones…when my son was 2 year old..and now he is 11….please let me know….thank you…

  2. Janet Morid

    Hi We were in the Nicu 14 years ago, and have NEVER received our invite. We were there for 67 days with our twins Andrew and Oliver Morid, born at 27 weeks,5 days. They are doing great and we would love to come next year! Please add our name to the list!!!Here is my mailing address
    Janet and Mehran(RON) Morid
    1900 Avy Ave
    Menlo Park, Ca 94025
    Phone number 415-971-0828
    Thanks so much!

  3. Veronica Franco

    As I was looking on my Facebook profile I saw this article about Stanford NICU babies. I want to say thank you for the care the nurses and Drs. Gave to my son 16 almost 17 years ago. He was born a month ahead and had to stay at NICU . Never had the change to thank anyone in writing til now. God bless you all and Thank you for the care you ladies gave my son.

  4. Wallette Kawaiaea

    Can you please let me know the date for the NICU reunion for 2017 so we can make plane reservations. We have been coming for the last 3 years since my granddaughter was born. Thank you

  5. Angie De la Torre

    Can you please let me know when is the next reunion for 2018. our daughter was born at 28 weeks in Lucile Packard and would love to come visit our nurses.

    • JulJenkins

      Hi Angie,

      The 36th Annual NICU Grad Party at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford took place on September 9. We want to make sure you and your daughter are on our guest list for next year, so please email us at We will also have updates regarding next year’s event starting in August 2019. Watch our Facebook events section for all the details.

  6. Matthew Kalani Gabriel


    I feel as this may be a strange way to reach out- but I was saved by ECMO and the NICU at Stanford Medical 30 years ago. I’ve lived all these years with one-functioning carotid artery and was recently looking up information on the treatment I went through.

    I’ve been a collegiate tennis athlete, a basketball player, a musician and currently serving as an Officer in the United States Army… above all, I’m a husband and a father.

    I’m not certain who will read this- but thank you. It’s been a challenging life thus far- but Life is a wonderful gift. I’ve helped a lot of people along the way- and today I felt like reaching out to those who gave me this opportunity.

    If there is anyway I can help with- studies, medical research, discussions- whatever you need- please don’t hesitate to reach out. May God bless all of you!

    -Matthew Kalani Gabriel


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)