Shout out to all the preemies and to my special preemie, Craig who by coincidence is 31 on World Prematurity Day! We are blessed to have the outstanding Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Northern Light Hospital in Bangor and the Ronald McDonald House right near by!

Photo Chris Popper

Craig was born 10 weeks early and I was in Texas when my wife Bonnie went into labor. I remember her calling me from the hospital at 3 in the morning and I asked her if everything was ok and she told me she was in Labor.

I called the airport, this was in 1989 well before flying became much more difficult, and said I needed to fly home. They told me I would have to fly standby and they couldn't guarantee me a seat at which I told them to get all the air marshalls they had, as I was getting on the plane!

I also kept calling the Hospital to get updates and they weren't really forthcoming and I remember they weren't really forthcoming. No one really had cellphones at this time, and I remember making frantic phone calls from the payphones at the airports

I bought every baby magazine there was at the airport and the stewardesses commented on my reading material. I explained I was a first time dad, and I needed them to fly faster. They gave me a complimentary bottle of champagne to take to celebrate and wings for the baby!

I finally got there and then the waiting began. They tried to stop the labor but weren't successful and we went from having 1 Lamaze class to a crash course with the midwife. Back then they didn't have cable, and television went off after Johnny Carson and I was never so excited to see the Morning Stretch at 5 a.m.!

The NICU staff gave me a tour of the intensive care unit, and we had no idea of the sex, or what condition the baby would be in! Craig was born at 4 pounds 10 ounces and was whisked away to the NICU

He received the best care! Those nurses looked after him like he was their own! I had to pass their test changing diapers, bathing and shampooing him all under their direction! I used to call every morning when I woke up to find out how many ounces he had lost or gained, because we couldn't take him home until he was 5 pounds.

Luckily we live only minutes from Northern Light Hospital, but for many who have to travel a great distance, they can take advantage of the Ronald McDonald House which becomes a home away from home for many. There they can stay for free and cook at the house or take advantage of the food of guest chefs (in non-covid times). It's an oasis from the hustle and bustle of the hospital and allows the parents to be near their child.

For many years we would go at Valentine's Day or right around then for the annual NICU reunion. There the nurses could reunite with their kids, because really if you are a NICU graduate, you are and always be one of their kids!

To all the preemies and to their parents, here's to a healthy and happy 2021 and Happy Preemie Day!