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NICU families bond together at Utah hospital's trunk-or-treat event

Posted at 8:56 PM, Oct 21, 2023

MILLCREEK, Utah — It was a special kind of reunion for families at St. Mark's Hospital on Saturday, bonded by a common thread.

More than 200 families attended a “Trunk-or-Treat” event to connect with each other and the hospital staff that helped save their families.

Kids were dressed in costumes, played games, got candy, and interacted with the people around them.

One of those families was the Kempers. Their twins, Kitty and JT, were born at 24 weeks and spent four months and four days in the neonatal intensive care unit when they were born in 2015. It’s been a long journey for the family, but the kids are doing well and are now thriving 8-year-olds.

“You have to have hope,” said Laura Kemper, the twins’ mom. “And try as hard as you can to stay present and in the moment and think positively, and just surround yourself with people who uplift you and can support you, and take it one day at a time.”

NICU families share a special bond because even though everyone has a different journey, they still have some of the emotions that come with seeing their babies in the NICU in common.

“It’s a really cool bond to have with other people,” Kemper said.

Dr. Tim LaPine, a neonatologist, helped take care of the twins and also founded the NICU at St. Mark's Hospital. He said it was “overwhelming” to see all those families together and excited to meet their doctors.

“It blows wind in our sails. What we do, it has a lot of late nights and worry and a lot of grey hair — all those kind of things that shave years off your life. It’s just so nice to see them, and they think about us. It’s nice to connect with them,” he said.

“We have kept in touch with all of our doctors, all of our nurses. They are who saved our kids. They were with them 24/7, loved them, held them, which was huge,” said Kemper.

Families don’t plan to find themselves in the NICU. So being able to connect with other families that can relate to them in unmatched.

“It’s been filled with a lot of tears, but a lot of good memories, and times that you just won't ever forget,” Kemper said.