Preemies Fare Well in SWFL: December 26, 2013

High-risk pregnancies, newborns with special needs and premature births. While many of these come as a surprise, caring for at-risk infants is no accident. The NICU at Golisano Children’s Hospital plans for everything- for example, it was one of the first in the country to use this advanced ventilator, controlled by the baby’s own breathing.

“Babies in neonatal intensive care unit, many of them are pre-terms and most of them have breathing problems. This machine senses when the diaphragm is contracting so that’s when baby’s breathing in, and this machine supports and gives the breath in at the same time,” says Dr. Kultar Singh, neonatologist with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

The care doesn’t stop there. Babies may stay in the NICU for days, weeks or months. The health system’s commitment to these at-risk infants carries on long after they’re discharged from the hospital and sent home.

“Now that we’ve gotten a better survival rate, we want babies to have a better quality of life,” says Sherri Campbell, nurse practitioner with Golisano Children’s Hospital.

The neonatal development clinic follows preemies and helps them catch up to their peers. By the time they’re two, most should be on track. Even severely impacted babies do better here.

“Our figures for what we call ‘poor outcome’ are much better than the national average; we’re having fewer children with long-term issues such as blindness and hearing impairment and we have less poor scores on developmental testing like standardize testing,” says Campbell.

Born two and a half months early, Ellie Gillespie is a graduate of both the NICU and developmental clinic.

“She’s very smart, she’s in a very good pre-school that works with her very closely- but she’s doing fantastic now,” says mom Erin Gillespie.

So a majority of at-risk newborns in Southwest Florida not only survive, but they are thriving as well.