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Duke Reunites Kids And Caregivers As Part of Miracle Network

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DURHAM — Even under the best of circumstances, a newborn faces lots of challenges. Sometimes, the odds are stacked against them. The doctors atDuke Children's Hospitalwork to even those odds.

Duke's Neo-Natal Intensive Care unit gives "preemies" and their parents a fighting chance.

When Britt and Michael Thomas learned in June 1998 that she was pregnant with her first child, they were ecstatic. But just 24 weeks into the pregnancy, Britt went into labor.

Cooper Thomas weighed 1 pound, 3 ounces when he was born. His father's wedding band fit up to his thigh -- that's how small he was.

Cooper was rushed to Duke Children's intensive care nursery. "It's something you can never be prepared for," Michael Thomas says. "Twenty-four hours a day you sit there wondering whether your son is going to make it through that day."

Each year Duke Children's Intensive Care Nursery team cares for more than 700 infants like Cooper.

"We see children in our nursery ranging in age from newborn to several months of age," says Dr. David Tanaka. "Their birth weights range from normal -- around 7 pounds, 8 pounds, [weights] that many families can relate to -- to infants even less than 1 pound."

Sondra Willis knew her pregnancy was high risk; she has a history of delivering early. Twins Caleb and Michaela were born 12 weeks early and weighed just under 3 pounds each.

"When they're in those incubators like that and you see all those wires connected to your children...you don't know how to take it," says the twins' father. "I always felt that they were really in the best care."

Cooper, Caleb and Michaela were three of the nearly 100 babies at a recent intensive care nursery reunion. The annual event, funded by the Duke Children's Miracle Network, reunites the youngsters with their caregivers, often for the first time.

"One of the great thrills we certainly have is when the families come back and share with us their children that we together have worked so hard for," Dr. Tanaka says.

The DukeChildren's Miracle Network Championsspecial will air on WRAL-TV5 Sunday from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. You can alsomake a donation online.


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