LODI (CBS13) — Staff at Adventist Health’s Lodi Memorial Hospital are celebrating a major milestone. A new center for critically-ill newborns opened in January.

On Wednesday, doctors and nurses had a chance to reunite with their former patients.

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Sara Weibe’s newborn was only seven days old when she had to be rushed back to the hospital.

“She stopped breathing so we called 911 and they brought her here,” Weibe said.

Norah was admitted to Lodi Memorial Hospital’s new neonatal intensive care unit as it’s very first patient.

“They’re wonderful. It was such a scary time,” Weibe said.

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The four-bed NICU offers specialized care for newborns who suffer complications and need around-the-clock care.

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A special graduation ceremony was held at the hospital, celebrating the former tiny patients who are now healthy and back home.

“It’s really rewarding to see all the families back and all the babies doing well,” said pediatrics physician Dr. Nurah Lawal.

Hospital staff said it took five years and $600,000 in community fundraising to open the NICU. The addition allows Lodi-area parents to stay much closer to home during some of the scariest days of their child’s new life.

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“We used to transfer a lot of babies out to other facilities and it’s very hard on the families, they have to travel,” said NICU nurse Melissa Lampkin.

Previously, neonatal patients had to go to hospitals in Sacramento or Stockton for treatment, but now the new state-of-the-art medical unit is now available to service Lodi’s growing population.

“”It’s an amazing feeling to know you’ve made an impact on their life,” Lampkin said.

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More than 1,100 babies are delivered at Lodi Memorial each year.