Former Preemie Molly Sear Celebrates 18th Birthday with St. Peter’s Hospital NICU Nurses and Staff

Molly Sear spent the first two months of her life in the St. Peter’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Born 14 weeks early, she weighed less than 3 pounds at birth. Roughly half the size of a Beanie Baby, Molly’s father’s wedding band slipped easily around her arm.

On Friday, July 14, a few days after her 18th birthday, Sear and her family returned to St. Peter’s Hospital to thank the nurses and physicians who saved her life. It’s an annual tradition for the family to drive in from their home in Johnstown to celebrate Molly’s birthday with the St. Peter’s Hospital NICU team.

Sear said she is grateful every day for the care she received as a newborn.

“I always think, ‘wow, I am so lucky,’” Sear said. “Every day is a miracle for me.”

NICU nurse Ann Whitlonis, RN, BSN, M.Ed, who cared for Sear 18 years ago and still works on the unit today, said seeing Sear every year “makes everything we do so worthwhile.”

“I look at her now and it’s amazing,” Whitlonis said. “The miracle of life will never escape me … [preemies] are so fragile, but so strong.”

Sear’s mother, Lisa Smith, said she will be forever grateful for the care, compassion, and warmth of the NICU team who cared for her daughter.

“We felt like we were leaving family when we brought Molly home,” Smith said.

Now 18, Molly is a healthy high school graduate, a member of the National Honor Society, and the recipient of a Triple J award for excelling in three sports in her senior year at Johnstown High School. She is an active volunteer, and looks forward to attending Ithaca College in the fall.

The St. Peter’s Hospital NICU, a Level III facility, is staffed 24 hours a day with board-certified neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, and registered nurses certified in neonatal nursing.

St. Peter’s Hospital, an affiliate of St. Peter’s Health Partners, is the first hospital in the Capital Region to earn the international “Baby-Friendly” designation. It is one of only three hospitals in upstate New York and among 387 hospitals and birth centers across the United States to hold the Baby-Friendly designation.

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