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900 FAMILIES CELEBRATE BLESSINGS OF CHILDREN.

Byline: Helen Gao Staff Writer

When Kristen and Gary Simpson's triplets were born prematurely in 1999, the babies had to spend the first three months of their lives in the neonatal intensive care unit on ventilators and oxygen.

Within the first two weeks of their birth, all three - each weighing about 2 pounds and measuring 12 inches - underwent heart surgery and one suffered a brain hemorrhage.

``We were terrified,'' said Kristen Simpson of Woodland Hills, recalling the heartache from not knowing whether her babies would survive or what handicaps they would have if they survived.

``The doctors couldn't tell us if they would talk, if they would walk,'' she said.

Today, the Simpsons' babies are healthy 2-year-olds.

About 900 families who had also been helped by the Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center gathered Saturday at the hospital parking lot for a reunion with the doctors, nurses and medical staff who worked to make parenthood possible for them. While the children enjoyed cotton candy, hot dogs and greetings from clowns and a Merlin impersonator, parents exchanged hugs and updated the medical staff on their children's progress.

Karen Winkler brought her 2-year-old twin girls dressed in matching pink jackets and capri pants.

Thanks to the medical staff at the hospital's Center for Reproductive Medicine, the Simi Valley mother said she was able to conceive the twins using donated eggs at the age of 46.

For many of the parents, the event was like a family reunion.

``We consider all the doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists (the triplets') first family,'' Kristen Simpson said.

Maureen Sherman, a nurse who retired from the neonatal intensive care unit three years ago, said she sometimes even gets invited to the birthday parties of the children she cared for.

``Such a sense of satisfaction - you have no idea you can do something to make someone so happy,'' she said.

Equipped with a High Risk Obstetrical Unit in addition to the reproductive center and neonatal unit, the medical center handles about 300 births each month.

A little less than 10 percent of the babies born there are placed in the neonatal unit because of infections, respiratory problems or premature birth.

Close to 100 percent of the babies survive because of medical advances made in recent decades.

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(1 -- 2) Families who had been helped by the Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center gathered Saturday for a reunion with the doctors, nurses and medical staff who worked to make parenthood possible for them, joining in a day of festivities that included ventriloquists and jugglers.

Phil McCarten/Staff Photographer
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 22, 2001
Words:429
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