I was inspired to become part of the CHOC Walk in the Park when I was in junior high, as a way I could help children in my own community who were at CHOC Children’s. I did all I could to raise money, made calls to family and friends, wrote letters and went door-to-door asking for donations. That’s where my passion for raising money for CHOC all started and every year my parents and I would participate in the CHOC Walk.
My son Noah was born in 2014 at St. Joseph’s, right next to CHOC. Nine hours after he was born, a nurse noticed something was off during a routine check-up, and soon we were being sent to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). It took a few days to determine exactly what was wrong. Noah was diagnosed with a lung infection and stayed in the NICU for almost two weeks.
Having participated in the CHOC Walk for so many years, I knew that CHOC was an amazing hospital, but I didn’t think I would ever be on the receiving end of their care. Being a walker for so many years and then having your own child be a patient at CHOC can be very emotional! CHOC did everything they could to make us feel comfortable when we were there and their staff was amazing!
In 2014 my husband and I created Team HOPE in honor of Noah. It started off as a small team, but last year Team Hope had around 90 walkers and raised more than $16,000 for CHOC. I never imagined Team HOPE would be such a big team! . Thanks to CHOC, Noah is now a happy, healthy 3-year-old and for that we will continue walking for CHOC helping raising money.
My favorite memory from all CHOC walks is when you are standing on Main Street, waiting with thousands of walkers getting ready to start the CHOC Walk. I love looking around and seeing how excited everyone is and thinking all of us came together to help raise money for CHOC and knowing there are some amazing stories on why money is raised is an amazing feeling!
A few tips for first time CHOC Walkers: remember that in fundraising, every dollar counts in making a difference. On the day of the walk, allow extra time to park and find your way to the front of Disneyland as the trams are not running. Last but not least, have fun while raising money for the children.
Lizette Lough, experiencing a seemingly normal pregnancy, was making final preparations to welcome her first baby, when her water unexpectedly broke at 33 weeks. She was rushed to San Antonio Regional Hospital in Upland, close to home, where her son Landon was born early on May 3, 2016.
After a few days in the hospital, Lizette and her husband Sean noticed the baby had not made a bowel movement. Tests revealed that Landon had an obstruction in his intestine. His physician recommended Landon be transferred immediately to CHOC for an emergency surgery with Dr. Peter Yu, a pediatric general and thoracic surgeon.
“My husband and I lost it,” Lizette says. “Our baby was only three days old and weighed about 4 pounds. The thought of surgery was beyond frightening.”
Upon arrival at CHOC, the Loughs were immediately made to feel at home by the staff, who helped them find a nearby hotel. Dr. Yu explained every scenario of the complex surgery in a compassionate and confident manner, the Loughs recall.
“Landon was in stable condition when he arrived at CHOC, and I’m very pleased that our expert transport team was able to get him here quickly and safely. If there had been a delay in transfer, Landon could have become very sick and it’s very possible that more of his intestine could have died. If that would’ve happened, he may not have had enough bowel to adequately digest food, which can be incompatible with life,” Dr. Yu says.
Landon was diagnosed with jejunal atresia, a rare condition – approximately 1 in 5,000 births – in which the small intestine is incompletely developed, leading to one or more gaps, or blockages, in the intestinal tract.
Lizette had gone through the required genetic tests prior to Landon’s birth, and jejunal atresia – often diagnosed prenatally – was not detected.
Additionally, Landon had malrotation of his intestines, which failed to coil in the proper position in the abdomen. This led to twisting of his bowel. If surgery had been delayed for longer, Landon could have died.
Landon’s surgery involved making an incision on his abdomen, examining the entire length of his intestine and untwisting it, removing the dead bowel, stitching together his small intestine, and performing a Ladd’s procedure. A Ladd’s procedure places the intestines back into the abdomen in a safe configuration to prevent future twisting of the bowel.
Sean, who works as a law enforcement officer, recalls how traumatic this was for his family. “I’m used to working in stressful situations, but this was a different kind of stress,” he says. “We were so happy that our baby had a successful surgery and that he was better. However, we were still waiting for him to have his first bowel movement. We were trying to stay positive.”
After his first bowel movement indicated that his intestines were recovering well, and spending about a month in CHOC’s surgical NICU, Landon was finally able to go home with his family.
“It takes a team to successfully care for sick babies and complex patients,” Dr. Yu explains. “Landon would not have had the excellent outcome that he had without our wonderful neonatologists, experienced and skilled pediatric anesthesiologists, Melissa Powell, our dedicated surgical neonatal nurse practitioner, and the outstanding NICU nurses who have dedicated their lives to taking care of newborn babies such as Landon and countless others. Together, we have the only dedicated surgical NICU in the area, with a special focus on taking care of newborns with surgical problems.”
Thanks to the expert multidisciplinary care provided at CHOC, today Landon is a happy baby, meeting all his milestones. The Loughs are enjoying their brave little boy, and look forward to his first birthday next month.
“Dr. Yu and the nurses in the NICU were so empathetic and amazing. They saw us through so much throughout our stay and we will forever be thankful,” Lizette says.
CHOC Children’s wants its patients and families to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Christine Bixby, a neonatologist. She completed a fellowship in neonatology, as well as her residency and an internship in pediatrics at Harbor UCLA Medical Center. She attended medical school at University of California, Davis. Dr. Bixby is the president of the Orange County Breastfeeding Coalition. Currently the medical director of lactation services at CHOC, she has been on staff at CHOC for nine years.
Q: What are your special clinical interests?
A: Newborn and premature care, and breastfeeding and breast milk use in extremely low birth weight infants.
Q: What are some new programs or developments within your specialty?
A: Through CHOC’s NICU initiative, the increased number of private rooms will help further facilitate family involvement in infants’ care and allow for a better transition to the family for breastfeeding. It will allow them to be as close to their baby as possible.
Q: What are your most common diagnoses? A: Prematurity and respiratory distress in newborn.
Q: What would you most like patients and families to know about you or your division at CHOC? A: We focus on involving families in an infant’s care and help them navigate their NICU stay to make sure they’re comfortable with their baby’s care, and understand what’s happening on behalf of their child. I want them to rest assured there really are so many people working tirelessly on behalf of their baby across so many disciplines.
Q: What inspires you most about the care being delivered here at CHOC? A: We’re trying to continually push the envelope of providing better and better care from both a technical standpoint and also from a supporting families standpoint.
Q: Why did you decide to become a doctor? A: My father experienced a serious injury at age two, and only survived it because of the great medical care he received. Once I was older I got the chance to see what medicine was really about, and I realized it’s about using critical thinking skills to get people through a challenging time, both medically and emotionally.
Q: If you weren’t a physician, what would you be and why?
A: I’d be a park ranger because my father was a park ranger. I love being outside and spending quiet time in nature.
Q: What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
A: I love spending time with my children and family, crocheting, inline skating, hiking and camping
Q: What have you learned from your patients?
A: I’ve learned the incredible strength of babies. We underestimate them as a society, but a sick baby is often stronger than a sick adult. I’m continually impressed by my patients’ families and the way they handle challenging diagnoses. They are put into a difficult position, but they process the information and move forward and are wonderful advocates for their children.
Danielle McLeod was looking forward to an easy second pregnancy and ultimately caring for her infant son as a confident and assured second-time mom.
But that expectation changed when little Ryan was born three months early this past winter after just 27 weeks gestation and weighing only 2 pounds and 1 ounce.
“His head wasn’t much bigger than a pacifier,” Danielle recalls. “He was the littlest baby I had ever seen. He was so skinny, and was all arms and legs. I was amazed at how active he was for such a little person. Like many preemies, he was a fighter from the start.”
And fight Ryan did inside CHOC Children’s Small Baby Unit (SBU), a portion of CHOC’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) dedicated to the care of babies born with extremely low birth weights. These patients are born at less than 28 weeks gestation and weighing less than 1,000 grams, or about 2 pounds and 3 ounces.
In the SBU, “micro-preemies” like Ryan receive coordinated care in a developmentally appropriate environment. A trailblazer in neonatal care nationwide, the unit is saving babies who just decades ago wouldn’t have likely survived.
“With its coordinated care in an environmentally appropriate location, the Small Baby Unit is designed to care specifically for babies like Ryan,” says Dr. Kushal Bhakta, Ryan’s neonatologist and medical director of the SBU. “When he came to the unit, he required significant ventilator support due to an ongoing infection, and he had a long road ahead of him.”
Danielle’s breezy pregnancy took a sudden turn early in her second trimester when her doctor found in her womb a subchronic hematoma, an indicator that she might deliver her baby early.
Danielle was put on bed rest, but a few weeks later, bleeding and signs of labor showed. At the hospital, doctors were able to stop the labor and admitted Danielle to keep it from beginning again too early. But about six weeks later, Danielle’s water broke and she underwent an emergency cesarean section.
On Valentine’s Day, after two weeks of ups and downs, Ryan was transferred to the SBU at CHOC and the McLeod family began their four-month journey.
“I don’t think people understand the pain that comes with having a child and not being able to hold him immediately or not being able to take him home shortly after delivery and share him with the world,” Danielle says.
She continues, “It was difficult knowing that there were many obstacles for Ryan to overcome before he could even think about coming home. Simple things like eating by mouth, a task that should come naturally, are challenging for babies born premature.”
During that time, while also focusing on growing, Ryan also battled chronic lung disease and a brain bleed, and learned to eat and breathe on his own. Meanwhile, Danielle and husband, Jared, learned how to care for a baby born more than three months early.
“I’ll never forget our first day at CHOC,” she says. “I was so overwhelmed, scared, and nervous. Once Ryan was settled in the SBU, his nurse came in to do his very first set of cares. I sat and watched, afraid to touch him. He was so fragile.”
She continues, “His nurse said, ‘Get in there, mama. You can do it.’ She had me put my hand on him, my hand covering his whole little torso. She talked me though what to do when caring for an extra small baby. From then on, I felt confident to be close to my little fighter.”
After 17 weeks in the SBU, Ryan finally went home to join his parents and brother. He still receives oxygen treatment and undergoes physical therapy twice a week, but is doing well.
It takes a village of physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers and other clinicians to help bring babies like Ryan home — and every one on the care team partners with patients’ families.
“During his stay in the unit, Ryan overcame great obstacles, thanks to the partnership between his care team and his parents,” Dr. Bhakta says. “Our goal in the unit is to get our patients home with the best possible outcomes. Today, Ryan is doing well and has a bright future ahead.”
Small but mighty, Ryan is rolling over and pushing himself up well, and is working toward sitting up by himself.
“He also loves smiling and laughing, especially at his big brother,” Danielle says.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” she says. “We are so grateful to all the wonderful nurses and doctors who cared for Ryan. I know he is doing so well because of the amazing care he received while in the SBU. We love our little fighter. He’s such a good baby. He is truly a miracle and we are blessed to be able to witness this little guy’s journey.”
The Small Baby Unit – the first of its kind – opened in 2010. The special 12-bed unit within our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is designed for babies born at less than 28 weeks gestation or who weigh less than 1,000 grams. The space is designed to aid in babies’ development with dim lighting and low noise levels, mimicking the womb’s environment as closely as possible. The unit is also nurturing for patients’ families. Since they are going through many of the same experiences, families are able to bond and support one another.
“It’s an amazing blessing to be part of these families’ lives. So many parents write to us and send pictures long after they’ve left the hospital. There is a mutual respect, and they become part of our extended family,” Dr. Bhakta says.
Board certified in pediatrics and neonatal-perinatal medicine, Dr. Bhakta is part of a specialized, highly trained team at CHOC. He owes the success of the unit to his team, he says.
“It’s inspiring to see the team’s passion for the lives of these babies,” Dr. Bhakta says. “From nurses to respiratory therapists, and all other disciplines, everyone on the team takes care of our patients like they were their own children.”
The highly committed team is improving quality and outcomes in extremely low birth weight infants. Impressive outcomes from the two years before and four years after the SBU’s opening in March 2010 include:
Significant reduction in chronic lung disease of prematurity.
Significant reduction in the rate of hospital-acquired infections.
Significant reduction in infants being discharged with growth restriction . These factors are linked to cognitive and physical disabilities.
Reduction in the average number of laboratory tests and X-rays per patient.
Dr. Bhakta’s vision for the SBU is to be recognized nationally and beyond as the premier destination for the care of extremely preterm infants. Dr. Bhakta and his team have hosted many hospitals interested in modeling their units after CHOC’s SBU. As leaders in their field, the team hopes to continue to improve patient outcomes.
“We’ve come so far in how we treat this patient population, he says. “We don’t want to only adapt knowledge, but create the knowledge and help set standards of care for these patients.”
Dr. Bhakta received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine and completed his pediatric residency and neonatal-perinatal fellowship training at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital, in Houston, Texas. He later joined the faculty at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital as assistant professor of pediatrics, where he also obtained an advanced certificate in teaching through the Educational Scholars Fellowship Program.
Dr. Bhakta has received several awards throughout his career, including “Super Doctors Southern California Rising Stars” in 2014 and 2015.
In his spare time, this dedicated physician enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters.
Happy Thanksgiving! My name is Karen Stapleton, and my son Noah is a patient at CHOC Children’s. As I prepare to celebrate the holidays with my family, I’m grateful we can be together since we have so much to celebrate. I’m also grateful for Noah’s many doctors and nurses at CHOC because without them, my son wouldn’t be alive.
Noah’s birth story
When I was 29 weeks pregnant with Noah, we learned that he had Down syndrome. Another prenatal ultrasound showed an abnormality in his heart, and we were referred to Dr. Pierangelo Renella, a pediatric cardiologist at CHOC, who diagnosed Noah with tetralogy of fallot, a serious heart defect that causes poor oxygenated blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. I was scared, but having been a CHOC patient myself as a child, I knew my son would be in good hands.
On July 27 of last year our lives changed forever— Noah was born! I chose to deliver at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange so that my son could be as close to CHOC as possible. When he was born, there were so many doctors and nurses around. I saw Noah quickly enough to give him a kiss before he was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at CHOC.
Shortly after birth, Noah’s care team also diagnosed him with Apert syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes certain bones to fuse early. For Noah, that was his skull, fingers and toes.
It was a success, and 31 days after he was born, Noah finally came home! Weekly trips back to CHOC’s clinics included visits to gastroenterology, pulmonary, cardiology and craniofacial specialists. It was another team effort to prepare Noah for a second open heart surgery that he would eventually need.
But a few weeks later, Noah had respiratory complications, which lead to an emergency open heart surgery at just 2 ½ months old. Thanks to Noah’s cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Richard Gates, and Noah’s fighting spirit, he was able to come home shortly after surgery.
Celebrating Christmas at CHOC
Just days before Christmas last year, Noah had to be admitted to CHOC for respiratory failure. It was scary to see my baby sedated for 19 days. Dr. Juliette Hunt, a critical care specialist, recommended that Noah undergo a tracheostomy, where a small opening is made in his windpipe and a tube is inserted to help him breathe. Making a decision like that is hard and scary for a mom, but I had complete trust in Noah’s team, and if they knew it would help Noah breathe easier, then I knew it was the right thing to do.
After that, Noah started to thrive. He gained weight and became strong enough for his next open heart surgery with Dr. Gates. After a mere six days in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit following this surgery, Noah got to come home again!
Even when Noah is doing well, sometimes it can be scary to care for him when he’s at home. During one of our hospital stays, I confided this fear in one of Noah’s favorite nurses, Karissa. She gave me specific tips on what to do during his tummy time and baths, and gave me the courage to care for my son. She encouraged me, and reminded me that CHOC wouldn’t advise me to do anything that wasn’t safe.
Noah’s first birthday
All of this is a lot for a little baby to go through before his first birthday, but Noah has always surprised us and pulled through. Celebrating his first birthday meant more than celebrating his first year of life; it meant celebrating every fight Noah had won over the last year, and it meant appreciating a milestone that at times we thought we might never reach. We decided a super hero theme was perfect for his party because we think of Noah as our little super hero.
After his birthday, Noah continued to flourish and grow! He started rolling over and actively playing, and he has not stopped smiling.
This progress allowed us to prepare for his next major surgery, a frontal orbital advancement, to reshape his skull and forehead that has fused too early due to Apert syndrome.
Before surgery could begin, the doctors needed to cut Noah’s hair to make a safe incision in his skull. We marked another one of Noah’s milestones at CHOC— his first haircut!
Noah has more hurdles and additional surgeries ahead of him, but even with how much he’s fought, he continues to smile. He’s not cranky and he doesn’t cry. He’s enjoying every single day he gets to be here – and that’s the life he has taught me to live too.
If Noah’s care team ever needs a reminder of why they do what you do, I tell them: My son would not be here today if it were not for each and every one of them here at CHOC. And for that, my family will be forever grateful.
Having worked as a community educator at CHOC Children’s for 15 years, Amy Frias knows that all CHOC employees pour their hearts into their work, and would do anything they could to help a child or comfort a family.
Last spring, she saw a post on social media about a group of women dedicated to transforming donated wedding dresses into bereavement gowns for babies who are born prematurely and pass away. Amy knew immediately that she’d found the perfect use for the beautiful wedding dress she’d worn a decade ago and had been sitting in storage ever since.
“That dress was beautiful, and it was worn during very happy times,” Amy says. “It’s my hope that the angel gowns created from it will bring a little bit of comfort and perhaps even peace to families in need.”
The volunteer seamstresses at Angel Gown Project of California were able to create more than a dozen angel gowns from Amy’s wedding dress. Each angel gown takes approximately two hours to create.
The angel gowns were recently delivered to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at CHOC. As a community educator, Amy has worked with a variety of families across many units in the hospital, but she’s always had a special place in her heart for NICU patients and their families.
“I often have the privilege of working with NICU families when they’re getting ready to leave the hospital and finally take their baby home, and we teach them things like car seat safety and CPR,” Amy says. “But I know that sometimes despite having the very best care, not all babies make it home.”
Dana Sperling, a social worker in CHOC’s NICU, sees this heartbreak firsthand.
“Neonatologists and specially trained nurses in the NICU do everything in their power and use the most advanced technology available to care for premature infants, but unfortunately, the reality is that not all babies make it home,” Dana says. “Anything we can do to help our families make this heartbreaking experience more cherished, we will. We’ll do whatever we can to help them.”
Bereavement gowns are often the last thing on a parent’s mind when they’re faced with immense grief over the loss of a child and they are unable to focus on all the details that must be tended to.
“Some of these parents have never had the chance to dress their babies themselves due to their level of illness. Parents are so appreciative of these gowns and are quick to notice the love and energy that went into making them,” Dana says. “We are helping parents make memories at a very sacred time and it is important to remember that what we do at CHOC to save a life is just as important as what we do when a life cannot be saved.”
In observance of Prematurity Awareness Month, meet a few graduates of the Small Baby Unit (SBU) at CHOC Children’s. The only of its kind in Orange County, the SBU focuses on caring for the unique needs of the smallest and sickest babies. This special unit is designed for babies born at less than 28 weeks gestation or who weigh less than 1,000 grams.
Moanalani Solomon Current age: 1 Birthday: July 14, 2015 Gestational age at birth: 28 weeks Birth weight: 2 pounds, 13 ounces Personality now: “Moanalani is an extremely happy baby who loves to chat with anyone who will listen. She can roll over and wants to show that trick off as soon as she’s on the floor. She is feisty and absolutely full of life,” says Noelani, Moanalani’s mother. Reflections on the journey: “We got to know every family in the unit. We really became such a support group for each other. We exchanged phone numbers and birth dates of all the other babies, and asked ‘How did you get here?’ and ‘What’s your story?’ You become family. You’re here for the same purpose. That’s what we really clung to,” Noelani says.
Lucas Zaragoza Current age: 1 Birthday: June 16, 2015 Gestational age at birth: 24 weeks Birth weight: 1 pound, 8 ounce Personality now: “Lucas is always happy, loveable, mischievous, very alert, and curious,” says Heather, Lucas’ mother. Reflections on the journey: “The nurses told us we’d be very hands on, take his temperature, change his diaper, hold him. They said, ‘It’s OK, we’ll walk you through it.’ They’re part of our family now. We don’t know we would be without CHOC and the nurses and doctors and everyone who had a hand in Lucas’ care,” Heather says.
Jeremiah Zazueta Currentage: 6 Birthday: March 22, 2010 Gestational age at birth: 25 weeks Birth weight: 2 pounds, 4 ounces Personality now: “Jeremiah, known as J.J., is a kindergartner full of life and personality. He is very outgoing and friendly. He enjoys playing T-ball, singing, reading, and playing with Hot Wheels. In other words, he’s a typical active boy,” says Maria, Jeremiah’s mother. Reflections on the journey: “At that moment, you just want them breathing. The doctor said if he cries when he’s born, that’s a good thing. I heard a whimper like a kitten and that gave me peace. The doctor said he’s a feisty one – he was moving his arms. This one’s a feisty one,” Maria says.
Current age: 4 Birthday: Sept. 29, 2012 Gestational age at birth: 23 weeks Birth weight: 1 pound, 1 ounce Personality now: “Parker’s battle to survive despite the odds seems to have established a bold defiance of the day-to-day challenges that life presents. Every task, no matter how simple or complex, is something that she routinely and emphatically proclaims, ‘I want to do it all by myself!’ The smallest of her peers and behind in her physical development, Parker seems to be the only one not to notice. She has a zest for life and is intent on taking full advantage of the chance she has been given,” says Kristina, Parker’s mother. Reflections on the journey: “We ended up falling in love with the Small Baby Unit, the nurses and the consistency. Everyone in that unit made a huge difference,” Kristina says.
Faith and Brayden Kohrs
Current age: 3 Birthday: Nov. 26, 2012 Gestational age at birth: 24 weeks Birth weight: Both 1 pound, 10 ounces Personality now: “We love their amazing hearts, helpful spirits and beautiful souls. They are truly our two little blessings. The kiddos love to travel. They do really well on road trips. Going out with Grandpa Kohrs on his boat in Lake Havasu is always a blast. Faith loves to dance. Brayden loves blocks and Legos. They both love Mickey Mouse Club House, music and books,” says Marydith, the twins’ mother. Reflections on the journey: “We love the wonderful, wonderful Small Baby Unit staff. They are the reasons we have our babies today. They are just amazing,” Marydith says.
Surgery, ventilators, central lines with IV nutrition, and medications are just some of the tools that can save and improve lives of babies in the CHOC Children’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Yet some parents may overlook a mother’s own breast milk as lifesaving or as a medication as well. In the NICU, our mantra to new moms is “Your Milk is Medicine.” From the moment our families are admitted to our care, we begin the process of helping moms understand the value of their breast milk for their infant, giving them helpful information, necessary equipment and continual support from our multidisciplinary team, to help them produce and express breast milk for their own infant and to support breastfeeding when it becomes appropriate.
Our goal is to lessen the strain of separation by including families in the care team, by collaborating with parents and promoting their participation in the care of their infant. We initiate skin to skin contact, or Kangaroo Care, as soon as possible and have protocols to do this safely with even the smallest infants. Families later comment that this first experience holding their infant was a time of healing and bonding. This intimate interaction provides a break from the stress that can come with not being able to take your baby home from the hospital right away. Moms, babies and family members secrete oxytocin with this skin to skin touch and that gives them a sense of relaxation, wellbeing and promotes bonding. Skin to skin care often increases a mom’s milk supply, and we consider this holding the first step toward breastfeeding.
Assistance in Obtaining Breastfeeding Supplies
We can assist moms in obtaining a breast pump for home or connect them with a free pump to borrow, or help her submit a prescription to her insurance until she can obtain one of her own to keep. From hour one, we help teach hand expression and techniques to improve milk removal. Later we help moms maintain their milk supply, while supporting hydration and nutrition with our meal program, where some meals are provided free of charge when moms are in the hospital with their baby. We can also help with breast and nipple issues that can develop with prolonged pumping, as well as assist with storage when moms have a full milk supply but are waiting for their little one to grow into full size feedings.
With developmental specialists, lactation consultants and specialty trained nurses, our team helps moms to adapt positioning and use tools to assist latching. We help moms learn the special behaviors of a premature or healing infant and to pace their feeding accordingly. Each mother/infant relationship is unique and our goal is to help families to have a fruitful and satisfying experience together. For some this can become exclusive breastfeeding and for others, partial breastfeeding that is neither stressful nor overwhelming. And for some we support their difficulty in producing milk while continuing to support skin to skin care and parental involvement in decision making and for the care of their infant in other ways.
World Breastfeeding Week
World Breastfeeding Week is an annual health observance recognized by more than 170 countries around the world, being celebrated this year from August 1-7. One of its goals is to show the importance of, “Good Health & Wellbeing,” and how incorporating breastfeeding has been shown to improve the lives of infants and children. Breastfeeding supports a baby’s health, development and even survival, but we also recognize there are health benefits for their mothers as well.
To enhance its patient- and family-centered care experience and meet the growing demand for services, CHOC Children’s Hospital has launched an expansion to its neonatal intensive care unit.
The build-out will create 36 private patient rooms with amenities to allow parents and guardians to comfortably stay overnight with their critically ill babies receiving highly specialized care at CHOC.
“Every parent wants to stay as close to their baby as possible, especially when the infant needs a high level of medical attention,” said Dr. Vijay Dhar, medical director of CHOC’s NICU. “The expansion to CHOC’s NICU will offer parents and guardians reassurance that they’ll be nearby while their baby receives the highest level of care. As an organization committed to patient- and family-centered care, CHOC is proud to soon offer private rooms to our smallest patients and their parents.”
Expected to open in summer 2017, the new solo rooms will be housed on the fourth floor of the state-of-the-art Bill Holmes Tower. A potential second phase of construction could add more beds.
Private NICU rooms are setting a new standard for improved patient outcomes. A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that infants cared for in single-family rooms weighed more at discharge and gained weight more rapidly than those who received care in an open design. Also, they required fewer medical procedures, had increased attention, and experienced less stress, lethargy and pain. The researchers attributed these findings to increased maternal involvement.
Further, the private-room setting provides the space and privacy that parents need to be more intimately involved in the care of their baby, including breast-feeding and skin-to-skin contact, and parents can stay overnight with their child. In addition, private rooms give staff more access to and interaction with the family and patient.
CHOC’s expanded unit will also feature a multipurpose family room, sibling activity room, additional office space and other enhanced amenities.
A fundraising campaign by CHOC to raise $22 million is underway to complete the project. To that end, CHOC has received a $100,000 gift in support of the project from Ray Zadjmool and Nazy Fouladirad on behalf of Tevora, an Orange County information security consulting firm. A room in the unit will be named in honor of the gift.
“We are very happy to support CHOC in the work they do for our community, our neighbors, and our kids,” said Zadjmool, Tevora’s chief executive officer.
Other donors who have contributed to the project include the estate of Martha Sheff; the late Margaret Sprague; the estate of Ruth Miller; Credit Union for Kids; the Tinkerbell Guild; Richard and Bobby Ann Stegemeier; Dr. Sherry Phelan & John H. Phelan, Jr.; Ashly and Brandon Howald; and the estate of Florence Jones.
For several decades, CHOC has served infants requiring the highest level of care. CHOC’s neonatal services currently offer 67 beds at CHOC Orange and the CHOC Children’s NICU at St. Joseph Hospital, 22 beds at CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital, and a team of premier neonatologists who provide coverage at hospitals throughout Southern California.
A suite of specialized services comprises the CHOC NICU: the Surgical NICU, which provides dedicated care to babies needing or recovering from surgery; the Small Baby Unit, where infants with extremely low birth weights receive coordinated care; the Neurocritical NICU, where babies with neurological problems are cohorted; and the Cardiac NICU, which provides comprehensive care for neonates with congenital heart defects.
CHOC’s NICU was recently named one of the nation’s “top 25” by U.S. News & World Report, reflecting CHOC’s unwavering commitment to the highest standards of patient care and safety.