Choco’s Gratitude Tour: The Greatest Hits

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This Choco Bear pillow was placed inside the 1964 time capsule. Read the blog post to see what else was included

When I began my gratitude tour last October to help celebrate CHOC’s 50th anniversary, I had no idea that I’d meet so many cool people and see so much fun stuff.

I’ve had a blast making my way around the hospital, meeting new people and blogging about my experiences! And even better, once my 50-week tour ends next month, I’ll always have these posts to read again and remember all these awesome times.

Here’s a look at some of my favorite posts from this past year:

CHOC Campus 1964
Here’s CHOC in its early days. Read this post to learn how the hospital campus has evolved in 50 years.

Sing-a-long: The Choco Bear Song: Did you know I have my very own song? Read this post to learn the lyrics and sing along with me.

CHOC Children’s Campus: Then and Now: This post was a blast from the past! Read to learn about how CHOC’s campus has changed in the last half century.

Choco Bear’s Evolving Style: I’ve had quite a few looks since 1964. This post shows photographs of yours truly throughout the years.

Inside CHOC’s 1964 Time Capsule: CHOC staff hid a time capsule to commemorate the hospital’s opening in 1964. Read this post to see what was buried inside.  

Inside CHOC’s 1993 Time Capsule: This post gave an inside look at what CHOC tucked inside its second time capsule.

During my tour, I’ve also met many really neat people. Let me introduce you to some of the new friends I made this year:

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Meet Parker, one of my new friends I met this year. Read this post to learn more about the graduate from CHOC’s Small Baby Unit.

Parker: Meet Parker, a graduate of CHOC’s Small Baby Unit, a special part of the neonatal intensive care unit dedicated to the care of micro-preemies. When we first met, she had just celebrated her first birthday.

Bill: Bill received treatment for leukemia at CHOC in the 1970s, and went on to become a hospital chaplain in Orange County.

Josh: This young man was treated at CHOC for childhood allergies and asthma. Josh was so inspired that he became a pediatrician and performed his residency here at CHOC.

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Meet Amy and Emily, two sisters who were treated at CHOC.

Amy and Emily: These ladies are sisters who both underwent treatment at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s. They are both very accomplished and so inspiring.

You can check out more posts like these from my gratitude tour at choc.org/thxchoc and look for more in coming weeks. We still have some more time until CHOC’s big day on Oct. 4, so you can bet I’ll be making the most of it.

Thank you for reading!

 

Neonatology: Then and Now

sbu_thenandnowCHOC Children’s has always done a great job of treating premature babies, and infants with heart problems, infections or birth defects. Over the last 50 years, I’ve seen technology and medicine change a lot in neonatology.

An extra special place at CHOC is its Small Baby Unit, a program within its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Reserved for the smallest and sickest babies, this unit gives hope to babies who wouldn’t have had a chance in 1964.

There, every newborn receives care from dedicated staff members. The space also has shrouded incubators to keep light away from the baby’s sensitive eyes and everyone (even family members) speaks gently to help create a calm, comforting and healing environment.

Kangaroo Care is another technique in neonatology that has grown in popularity since 1964. As babies spend time lying on their parents’ chests, they become more alert, cry less often and even a find feeding rhythm. Premature babies benefit from this practice by facing fewer complications, gaining weight and growing closer to their parents.

I know the doctors and nurses at CHOC care about the precious lives in the NICU. They provide exceptional service, but they’re not just focused on treating symptoms or reading monitors. They are also committed to giving newborns and families a strong chance of living healthy lives.

Tell me how CHOC helped your newborn baby and family by using the hashtag #thxCHOC on social media.

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CHOC Children’s 67-bed NICU includes four multi-patient rooms, six single care rooms, four private rooms for “rooming in,” and two four-bed suites. The unit also features a two-bed Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) unit. The life-saving ECMO unit is the only one of its kind in Orange County and CHOC also offers Orange County’s only ECMO transport unit.

Extremely Low Birth Weight Program Provides Significant Outcomes for Tiny Patients

Medical advances are improving the survival of babies born at lower gestational ages, but survival – alone – isn’t the best measure of success, says Dr. Tony Soliman, a CHOC Children’s neonatologist.

In this CHOC Radio segment, Dr. Soliman shares his and his team’s commitment to ensuring not only the survival of this very fragile patient population but to ensuring bright, healthy futures for these babies.

According to Dr. Soliman, there’s no program on the West Coast like CHOC’s extremely low birth weight program, which is designed to address the unique needs of infants born at less than 28 weeks gestation and weighing less than 1,000 grams. He says having a specialized team, specific care guidelines and a separate unit – versus the main Neonatal Intensive Care Unit – have resulted in significant outcomes for his patients.

Tune in to hear more about the success of this very special program.

 

A Bright Future: Parker’s Story

So far, my 50-week gratitude tour at CHOC is going great. Already, I’ve met many other people who also have CHOC to thank for making their future bright.

Today, I wanted to share one of these stories with you. Let’s learn more about Parker, who recently celebrated her first birthday – thanks to CHOC.

photo-67A year ago, a first birthday party was an uncertainty for Parker Evans, who was born weighing just 1 pound, 1 ounce after only 23 weeks gestation.

So, when the milestone approached after a long fight in CHOC’s Small Baby Unit (SBU), it was only appropriate that the Evans family would throw a blowout bash for their miracle baby.

“We said it was like a celebration of life,” says mom, Kristina.

Parker is one of scores of micro-preemies who have received special care inside the SBU since it opened in 2010. In the unit, infants born at less than 28 weeks gestation and weighing less than 1,000 grams receive coordinated care by specially trained staff.

“We ended up falling in love with the small baby unit – the nurses, the consistency, the environment,” Kristina says.

The SBU’s space differs from a traditional neonatal intensive care unit: Tiny babies lie inside shrouded incubators that keep light away from their underdeveloped eyes. Even a whisper is harsh for these babies’ ears, so families and staff members speak in a gentle “library voice.” The goal is to mimic the womb’s environment as closely as possible so that infants can focus on growing.

“You never think this would happen to you, or that this world exists – that is until you’re in it,” says Kristina. “I’m so lucky that CHOC has that unit.”

Parker was delivered by cesarean section after Kristina suffered blood loss attributed to placenta previa, a condition where a woman’s placenta is too close to her cervix.

Transferred to the SBU nine days later, Parker remained there for 132 days until she was well enough to go home to south Orange County.

About a year later, Parker is growing and thriving. Parker does receive physical therapy, but she is on track developmentally and physicians foresee no future disabilities.

Kristina credits the SBU and its staff with ensuring a bright future for her daughter.

“I’m not going to lie: Having an extremely premature baby is the hardest thing a parent can ever go through, but everyone in that unit made a huge difference,” she said. “We fell in love with the Small Baby Unit.”

More stories about CHOC patients:

  • CHOC Patient Inspired to Become CHOC Doc
    At 6 years old, Vanessa Avina was more interested in viewing the monitor for her echocardiography (heart ultrasound) than watching a cartoon during her doctor’s visits. Her CHOC pediatric cardiologist ...
  • CHOC Walk in the Park: Justin’s Helpers
    As it celebrates its 25th anniversary, CHOC “Walk in the Park” has raised more than $24 million to fund education, research and adoption and utilization of the latest technologies to ...
  • A Bright Future: Ian and Micah’s Story
    Even though I’ve been hanging around CHOC for a long time now, I am continually surprised by the courage, tenacity and strength of the patients I meet. It’s especially gratifying ...

Small Baby Unit Outcomes: Big Improvements for the Littlest Patients

 

CHOC Small Baby Unit patient, Emma Faith, who weighed only 1 pound 4 ounces at birth.
CHOC Small Baby Unit patient, Emma Faith, who weighed only 1 pound 4 ounces at birth.

Weighing in at just 1 pound and 4 ounces at birth, baby Emma Faith received a special nickname from the nurses who cared for her inside CHOC Children’s Small Baby Unit (SBU): Mighty Mouse.

Three years later, Emma Faith is living up to that title as an energetic little girl, one of scores of children who have received treatment inside the SBU since it opened in 2010. Thriving and flourishing, she is the perfect embodiment of the impressive outcomes reported by the unit.

Recently released three-year data show a notable shift in outcomes for patients discharged in 2012, compared to those discharged in 2009, before the opening of the 12-bed unit for infants born at less than 28 weeks gestation or smaller than 1,000 grams:

• Weight and head circumference: In 2012, just 16 percent of all infants discharged from the unit were below the third percentile for weight and head circumference, while 39 percent were in 2009. These factors are linked to cognitive and physical disabilities.

• Oral feeding rates: In 2012, 84 percent of infants were being fed completely orally, rather than through a feeding tube, upon discharge, compared to 65 percent in 2009. CHOC’s SBU practices infant-driven feedings, wherein the baby drives her own advancement of nipple feeding – not staff.

• Infection rates: In 2012, 15 percent of infants suffered hospital-borne infections, while 41 percent did in 2009. The SBU attributes this dramatic shift to a team approach, a reduction in central lines and excellent hygiene among staff and families.

• Chronic lung disease rates: In 2012, 27 percent of infants left the unit with chronic lung disease, compared to 45

Emma Faith today.
Emma Faith today.

percent in 2009. This common condition for premature babies can have long-lasting ramifications including re-hospitalization and poor neurodevelopment. Related, in 2012, 11 percent of infants went home from CHOC’s SBU on oxygen support, while 32 percent did in 2009.

• Labs and X-rays: The numbers of labs and X-rays have each been reduced by about half since 2009.

The unit opened in 2010. Though preterm infants were already receiving exceptional care in the NICU, CHOC physicians recognized that increasing medical literature-based efforts could improve outcomes.

Specifically, research indicates that babies with extremely low birth weights (ELBW) could greatly benefit from guideline-driven care provided by dedicated and specially trained staff inside a low-stimulus environment.

Three years later, the SBU is doing just that.

There, patients lie inside shrouded incubators that keep light away from their underdeveloped eyes. Even a whisper is harsh for these babies’ ears, so families and staff members speak in a gentle “library voice.” The goal is to mimic the womb’s environment as closely as possible so that infants can focus on growing.

“We’ve created this really unique place that only a handful of hospitals have,” says Dr. Antoine Soliman, a CHOC neonatologist.

But the space is equally nurturing for the parents of these tiny babies. Here, they find solidarity and support as they bond over an experience most parents cannot understand.

“We grew a bond, and we’re still very close. They are my family,” says Emma Faith’s mother, Eunice, who became close with other parents during her time in the unit. “We understand each other.”

Moving forward, the SBU’s goal is to continue to improve patient outcomes, as well as family and staff satisfaction, while also becoming a destination for the care of extremely preterm infants.

More stories about the Small Baby Unit: