PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - If you have a child who was in the NICU at birth, chances are you grew fairly close to some of the hospital staff who cared for them there.

Families from all over the valley gathered on Saturday to reunite with the doctors and nurses who helped save their babies’ lives while they were in intensive care.

The Carvajals were just one of the families who came to the 4th Annual event that reconnects Banner University Medical Center NICU staff with the babies and families who have spent time there.

Born with underdeveloped lungs, Riley Carvajal had an operation at 3 days old and was in the NICU in Phoenix for 2 weeks.

"The NICU as a whole is a family," said Ariel, Riley's dad. "All the nurses know you. The people who are there with you know who you are because you’re there day in and day out."

Banner staff says it’s one of their favorite days of the year.

"We take care of these kids at their most vulnerable and fragile state and unfortunately we can’t keep track of all these babies when they go home," said neonataologist Jay Patel.

Between everyone who showed up, there were twins, triplets and even quadruplets. Some babies were still just a few months old. Other former NICU babies are approaching 30.

"They want to see the nurses and the doctors that took care of their babies, just to show off – ‘Look at me now!’ so it’s nice," said NICU registered nurse Brittney Taylor.

The Carvajals said it was bittersweet as they pulled up into that parking lot they knew far too well. They say when you’re baby is still in the NICU, you don’t always get a chance to give an adequate "thank you."

"Being out of that situation, having time to heal and then being able to see everyone is amazing," said Andreann, Riley's mom.


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