Hospital care changes — a lot— when the patient is a premature infant. Regular bassinets are too big. Temperature and humidity control become essential to protect a preemie’s incredibly delicate skin and lack of body fat. Standard gurneys can’t be used to transport the babies and standard infusion pumps are far too overwhelming for a preemie’s drug, nutrition, or fluid delivery needs. But a recent $250,000 grant from the Tellabs Foundation will help address those needs for patients in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital at Loyola University Medical Center. “The grant request from Loyola for the NICU hit our ‘sweet spot’ as a funder,” said Meredith Hilt, executive director of the foundation. “Education, technology and health care are our funding priorities.
Put that together with Loyola’s outstanding reputation in neonatal care, and it was a win/win to award this grant.” A major portion of the Tellabs Foundation grant will be used to purchase specially designed Giraffe®Omnibeds at a cost of approximately $38,000 each. The beds are the latest incarnation of what was once known as an “incubator.” The Omnibeds provide uniform radiant heat and humidity control that mimics the womb environment; an integrated scale for monitoring weight; a rotating mattress; four portholes that facilitate care while maintaining temperature and humidity; an integrated x-ray cassette tray; and height controls to facilitate both care and nurturing. And they can even be fitted with a battery unit that can run the bed’s electronic systems while the child is transported for tests.
“One of our greatest challenges in caring for preemies is the need for specialized equipment like this,” said Marc Weiss, MD, the NICU’s medical director. “It might seem obvious, but even many medical professionals don’t stop to think about how the patient’s size affects everything. Standard issue just doesn’t work for a child who weighs 9.2 ounces.”
The Tellabs Foundation grant also will fund the purchase of precise syringe pumps at a cost of $3,000 each. These devices allow a large filled syringe to be fitted into a pump that can deliver smooth, accurate infusions of less than .5ml (1/10 of a teaspoon) per hour if needed. Typical infusion pumps designed for larger patients can produce a small “burst” of liquid inconsequential to typical patients, but potentially delivering a larger dose than a preemie needs in an hour, so this equipment is critical.
Commenting on the grant, Denise Callarman, vice president of the Tellabs Foundation board, observed that “We invest in communities where Tellabs employees live and work and we know Loyola plays a significant role in caring for children in these communities. It was an honor to know we could give back.” Callarman knows first-hand the challenges of parenting a preemie. She and her husband, Tim, are the parents of NICU “graduates,” now 23 years old, one of whom was born with Vater Syndrome and remains medically fragile, though stable. When she toured the NICU recently, she said, “I had a flashback….not much had changed since the boys were born. So I thought that the grant could really impact patient care and make it 21st century.” With the vision of benefactors like Tellabs Foundation, Loyola plans to continue its record of exemplary care for some of the Chicago-area’s tiniest patients.
For more information about supporting the NICU at Loyola, contact the Office of Development at (708) 216-3201 or firstname.lastname@example.org.