Topeka (WIBW) - Mason Deitcher peered around the podium then wandered across the stage while his father, Eric, spoke to a gathering in Pozez Education Center Tuesday.
On the second floor of Stormont-Vail's North Tower, Keith and Amber Tatum watched over their daughter, Kylie, much like the Deitcher's watched over Mason when he was born four years ago.
Both children started their life in Stormont's NICU. Tuesday's gathering was to announced their new partnership with the March of Dimes, aiming to make the difficulties of dealing with a premature baby a little easier.
The organizations have launched the NICU Family Support Program.
The program provides additional training for staff to understand what's important to parents when their child is in the NICU and links parents with others who've been through the experience.
NIC Director Nicki Bradbury says it will help ensure all needs of the families are addressed during a very stressful time. She says families expect the birth of a child to be a happy time, and days, even months, in the NICU are not something for which they've planned.
A committee of NICU graduate parents and NICU staff helped develop the activities and services. Eric Deitcher was among them. Mason spent two months in the NICU. Deitcher says that while the staff were great about answering all their questions, he felt he and other parents could offer perspective on the types of information parents really wanted and a more lay person versus medical way of staying it.
In 2008, 524 newborns were treated in Stormont's NICU, and they're on pace for more than that this year.
Keith Tatum's daughter, Kylie, is among them. She's been there 15 weeks.
Keith says the medical care is excellent, but he believes any support families receive is an added compliment to it.
While the Stormont partnership is new, March of Dimes has a NICU Family Support Program active in every state. The organization says it is especially pleased with how Stormont has responded, noting the entire NICU staff signed up and attended training in two days.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month.