RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – WakeMed on Sunday celebrated 50 years of having a special treatment level for newborns who need extra care — the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

Former patients reunited with the doctors and nurses who helped bring them into the world.

Dallas Dorociak spent his first Christmas at the WakeMed Raleigh campus. He had to go to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) soon after being born prematurely.

“Originally Duke Hospital in Raleigh — they sent us here. He was six weeks early, and almost came out nine weeks early. About 12 hours later he decided to surprise us and come on out,” said Dallas’s father, Daniel Dorociak.

Daniel Dorociak said it was a difficult time for him and his wife, but that the new parents made it through with the help of the WakeMed staff.

“They would always spend all the time with him. Make sure he was picked up, loved, fed and happy and all that,” said Dorociak.

A doctor at the celebration spoke about his former patients.

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“I knew them when they were a pound, and they fit in my hand, and now they’re running around with their parents,” said Dr. James Perciaccante, director of WakeMed’s NICU.

He said he’s seen many changes since becoming director of the unit 12 years ago.

“I think when I started this was a 24-bed unit, and now it’s a 48-bed unit,” said Perciaccante.