Parents and Preemies

premature_babyHELPING PREEMIES GROW
A premature or preterm baby is born before 37 weeks of gestation. Preemies often require hospitalization but mom can help her preemie from day one, says Dr. Bixby, a CHOC Neonatologist. “Early on, the best way for a preemie to grow is with the mother’s milk. Moms can start pumping in the hospital and should start pumping as soon as possible after delivery. We also have found that having the parents place the infant on their chests, skin to skin (called “kangaroo care”) helps the baby grow, breathe better and develop better.” Parents should ask their neonatologist and pediatrician about medical issues to watch for as their preemie grows. Keeping up with standard vaccinations and special vaccinations for preemies is also important, says Dr. Bixby.  Parents should also keep up with their vaccinations, particularly influenza and pertussis vaccines, which will protect the baby until the babies immune system has matured and the standard vaccines are completed.

DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES
“Premature infants are at risk for developmental delays so parents should be watchful of the developmental milestones, taking into account the appropriate delay from an early birth,” says Dr. Bixby. Preemies visit CHOC’s Early Developmental Assessment Clinic at 6 months of age for a full assessment of the baby’s development and nutritional needs and a referral to the appropriate specialist if necessary, she said, adding, “Parents and families should create a loving and engaging home environment so the baby is encouraged to move around and reach for things and interact with the world and learn.”

PREVENTING PRETERM DELIVERY
Pregnant women are encouraged to seek prenatal care as soon as possible to help prevent a premature delivery and to identify any potential problems that could lead to a preterm birth, says Dr. Bixby. “Pregnant women should see their family practice doctor or obstetrician regularly and get a referral to a specialist if there are concerns about the pregnancy. Good dental care helps too. Research shows that dental disease or poor dentition is associated with preterm delivery. Mom should take care of herself, get some exercise in consultation with your obstetrician and eat well.”

FAST FACTS

    • Annual cost to society for premature births: $26 Billion+
    • Percent increase over the last 25 years in premature births in the U.S.: 36
    • Number of premature babies born each year in the U.S. (1 IN 9 BABIES): 500,000

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Dr. Christine Bixby
Dr. Christine Bixby
CHOC Neonatologist

PHYSICIAN FOCUS: Dr. Christine Bixby

Dr. Bixby completed her fellowship in neonatology at Harbor UCLA Medical Center and also completed her residency and internship training in pediatrics at Harbor UCLA Medical Center. She completed a fellowship in neonatology in a joint program between CHOC and Harbor UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Bixby specializes in caring for premature infants and is involved in research studies focusing on issues related to breast milk, establishing a milk supply and using breast milk for premature babies.

Dr. Bixby’s philosophy of care: “My philosophy of care is to bring in the parents and family as part of the health care team and making sure they are educated and comfortable with the care we are giving their children.”

EDUCATION:
University of California, Davis, School of Medicine

BOARD CERTIFICATIONS:
Pediatrics Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine

More about Dr. Christine Bixby

This article was featured in the Orange County Register on April 28, 2104, and was written by Amy Bentley.

Investing in Care

Stephen and Cynthia Fry of Newport Coast are longtime philanthropists in Orange County who were introduced to CHOC Children’s three years ago when their young granddaughter was diagnosed with a rare and deadly genetic disease.

annual-report-2013-investing-in-care-2Charlotte Jordan went undiagnosed by several physicians until age 3½, when CHOC specialists in the division of metabolic disorders diagnosed her with glycogen storage disease 1a (GSD). This disease results in Charlotte’s liver being able to soak up and store glucose, but not release it effectively. Without treatment, the abnormally low content of glucose in her blood (hypoglycemia, commonly referred to as low blood sugar ) can lead to life-threatening complications.  Her very rare disorder requires around-the-clock maintenance, including regular visits with Charlotte’s doctor, Richard Chang, M.D., and his team.

Through this experience, Charlotte’s family was inspired to give back to Dr. Chang and the division of metabolic disorders as a special way of saying “thank you,” making CHOC one of the family’s annual philanthropic priorities.  “The entire team does their job with such grace and care that it’s almost overwhelming,” says Lindsay Jordan, Charlotte’s mother. “It’s a difficult disease. I don’t know how any parent who has a child with a serious illness can get through it without having someone like Dr. Chang in their corner.”

Metabolic disorders are an area of medicine that receive relatively little funding because the disorders are so rare. “The Fry family’s generous giving helps pay for a full-time nurse practitioner to educate CHOC staff members about metabolic disorders,” says Dr. Chang.  “A gift like this allows CHOC to truly care for kids in ways that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.”

No case too rare

Doctors on CHOC’s metabolic disorders team spend hours steeped in research and commonly see patients for whom there is no immediate diagnosis.

“It takes a lot of training to be a specialist in this area,” Dr. Chang says. “Many of the patients we treat have conditions so rare that they are among only a handful of patients worldwide to have that specific disorder.”  Dr. Chang and the metabolic team see about 45 children a week on an outpatient basis. At the same time, they care for five to 10 patients admitted to CHOC who are being assessed or treated for rare metabolic disorders. Such patients, he says, typically require care their entire lives.  Charlotte, now 6 ½, has to be extremely careful about what she eats and because of her enlarged liver can’t participate in contact sports. Every three to four hours, she receives three to four tablespoons of raw corn starch which slowly releases the glucose her body needs without overtaxing her liver.

“Charlotte is thriving, happy and healthy as we can hope for, and that makes my husband and me, as well as my parents, very grateful,” Jordan says. “We’re lucky to have Dr. Chang and the entire metabolic team in our lives.”  This past year, in addition to making their annual donation supporting the division of metabolic disorders, the Fry family gave an additional, and unexpected, $1 million to help build the Bill Holmes Tower and name the admitting reception space that is located on the first floor of the new building. The family wanted the leadership donation to make a significant impact at CHOC and help expand the hospital—a place filled with very special people who have become like family to Charlotte.

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