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.

Choco Bear’s evolving style

Written by Choco Bear

CHOC Children’s and pediatric healthcare have changed so much since 1964. And I suppose that I have as well.

I was looking at old photographs recently and realized that I’ve had quite a few looks in the last 50 years. Can you blame a bear for trying? When you’re friends with all the folks at CHOC, it makes perfect sense that I’d want to look my best.

Check out a gallery of my various looks in the last 50 years. What’s your favorite?

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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.”

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