(WIBW) - One in ten newborns will spend time in a neo natal intensive care unit.
Last year, the NICU at Topeka's Stormont-Vail HealthCare treated 524 newborns.
When Kylie was born at just 23 weeks, parents Amber and Keith Tatum weren't sure what to do. Keith said there've been a lot of challenges and a lot of the experience was playing it by ear.
Eric Deitcher knows just what they're going through. His son, Mason, arrived 11 weeks early and spent more than two months in the NICU. He says every day brought new questions and new stress.
With Mason now four-years old, Eric is using his experience to help others, serving on an advisory committee for a new partnership between Stormont-Vail and the March of Dimes called the NICU Family Support program.
Nicki Bradbury, director of Stormont's NICU, says it will help families receive the emotional and social support they need when they're going through the stress of having a sick baby.
The program will offer resources for families, and partner current NICU families with those of NICU grads, not just for conversation, but also simple activities, like watching television.
Bradbury says nobody knows until they've walked in the shoes of someone who's been through the NICU experience what that experience is like.
Parents like Eric have been instrumental in planning the activities and also the additional training staff have gone through to get a better feel for just what parents need.
Both Mason's and Kylie's families agree the medical care in the NICU is excellent, and the extra support will make it even better.
Keith says just to have people who can say they've been there and it's okay will be valuable support.
The March of Dimes has a version of the family support program operating in all fifty states.