NICU nurses recall Lee Health history, celebrate Golisano Children’s Hospital’s 5th birthday

Published: May 5, 2022 4:50 PM EDT
Updated: May 5, 2022 5:03 PM EDT

For some, it’s hard to believe Golisano Children’s Hospital is already celebrating the 5th birthday of its $200 million state-of-the-art facilities.

We caught up with some nurses in the NICU who will tell you, time flies when you’re taking care of our tiniest patients.

Years of fundraising and construction all lead up to the parade of pediatric patients moving from next door Health Park to the brand new rooms at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

It was a thrill for Nurse Candy Pemburton who started working in the NICU in 1985. She said, “It was like going from the dark ages into the new world because everybody had their own private room instead of one big room where every family was next to each other and we barely had room to move in between the patients and all the equipment.”

That little bit of privacy is priceless for families with a child fighting for their life. NICU nurse Penny Huffman experienced it firsthand when her own daughter was rushed to the NICU at Lee Memorial more than 30 years ago.

“The doctors I worked with were taking care of my baby,” she said. Back then, the NICU was set up like a ward, with all the babies in one room.

Huffman explained, “We didn’t have the rooms. Private rooms at all. And you were very close to the next baby and whatever and you didn’t have the privacy like I know one of those I had one of those hormonal breakdowns and I was crying and the only place to hide was a breast-feeding room. So I went in there and took her in there, just to kinda get away from it all, but you didn’t have a place to just go and be away from the situation. So now I think it’s nice for parents they have some privacy.”

Currently, the NICU at Golisano has 70 private rooms. But what really makes it special are the people. People like Huffman, who can empathize with parents, “I think it opens your eyes to the other side of it. I certainly was not like these other mommies that have their babies here for 140 days or anything like that. My daughter was in for about a week and a half, but just the thing that I think for me that I can really write to them as the uncertainty.”

It’s that kind of comfort and care that’s cause for celebration. And even with their decades of dedication to our area’s moms and babies, these nurses plan to celebrate many more.

Pemburton said, “I love my job. I love doing this. I love coming to work. There’s never a day that I don’t come to work that I am dreading coming. I love coming to work or else I wouldn’t be here. I would stay home. I would retire, but this is such a part of me. This is me”

Those nurses and the entire hospital team will celebrate with patients and families on Friday.

Tom Golisano, who donated $20 million to start the capital campaign for the hospital will also be there to cut the birthday cake.