OGDEN -- It was hard to believe that the young man standing in front of the doctors and nurses at McKay-Dee Hospital on Monday afternoon began life weighing in at 2 pounds 9 ounces.
Spencer Nichols, now 15 years old and a member of the Davis High School swim team, stands a little over 6 feet tall, weighs 145 pounds and is the picture of health.
"It brings us great satisfaction when we see families walk in together, and we remember the parents, but we can't remember which kid it was that we took care of in the NICU," said Dr. Larry Eggert, system medical director of neonatology and the women and newborns clinical program for Intermountain Healthcare, and one of the physicians who cared for Spencer when he was born. "That's a wonderful thing because it shows all of our hard work paid off."
During a surprise reunion at the hospital Monday, Spencer got to meet and visit with the team of health care workers who cared for him 15 years ago.
Spencer's parents, Todd and Kristine Nichols, said their son was born 10 weeks premature Feb. 20, 1998. The family was vacationing in California when Kristine went into labor and delivered him at Chapman Medical Center.
After his birth, Kristine was able to hold him for only a few short minutes before he was loaded into an ambulance and transported to Fountain Valley Hospital 20 minutes away where he would spend his first three weeks of life. Eggert happened to be vacationing in California and took time away from his vacation to visit Spencer in the hospital before he was transferred to McKay-Dee Hospital's Newborn Intensive Care Unit, where Eggert would be his full-time physician.
"These were hard days," Todd Nichols said. "Spencer struggled with lung disease, had several staph infections and required several transfusions as blood was drawn to monitor his development. The emotional strain was very hard on us."
Todd wanted his family to get back to Utah and teamed up with Kathy Zundel, a case worker at McKay-Dee Hospital. She would ultimately be responsible for helping Spencer get transferred back to Utah and into the hands of McKay-Dee's NICU staff.
"Kathy was amazing," Todd said. "She was very sensitive and caring and went the extra mile to facilitate Spencer's transfer. She learned it was mine and Kristine's wedding anniversary on March 17 and made it her personal goal to get Spencer home by then. She said she wanted to make it an anniversary gift. Kathy delivered."
Zundel, who attended the reunion, said she was thrilled to see Spencer is such a healthy young man today.
"It meant a lot to me to be able to help," she told the family. "I put myself in your place and did the same thing I would have wanted."
Spencer thanked everyone for helping him beat the odds 15 years ago. He told them he loves to swim, read, play the piano and hang out with friends, and one day, he said, he hopes to become an anesthesiologist.