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American Family Children's Hospital's NICU Celebrates a Year of Success

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American Family Children's Hospital's NICU Celebrates a Year of Success

Dr. Jamie LimjocoMadison, Wisconsin - There is nothing quite like a baby's first birthday.

On May 13, 2015, the Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at American Family Children's Hospital - which has cared for more than 100 acutely ill babies from across the tri-state region - turned 1 year old.

Jamie Limjoco, MD, Medical Director of American Family Children's Hospital's Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit recently spoke about the impact of this incredible resource.

Q: A Level IV NICU is where the very sickest babies are treated. What has this meant for families in the region to have such a facility at American Family Children's Hospital?

A: American Family Children's Hospital now has one of only two Level IV NICU's in Wisconsin. A NICU is only considered Level IV if it offers the wide array of pediatric subspecialists, surgeons, anesthesiologists and ECMO service (infant heart-lung bypass) that is available at most comprehensive regional children's hospitals.

Before we opened in May 2014, the only Level IV NICU in the state was located 100 miles away, in Milwaukee. Today, families from across the state and beyond have a more convenient – and very beautiful - option with our NICU that is entirely focused on providing the utmost comfort for babies and family members.

Q: Can you talk about the babies that have been cared for in the NICU?

A: We have admitted more than 100 babies weighing from just over one pound to more than 11 pounds, with gestational ages ranging from 23 weeks to 41 weeks.

Q: Where have the babies come from?

A: Since NICUs by definition care for acutely ill babies, virtually every baby we admit arrives via our CHETA (Children's Hospital Emergency Transport Ambulance) or another emergency transport vehicle. Our babies have come from not only the Greater Madison Area, but nearly every part of Wisconsin, as well as the Rockford, Ill., and Dubuque, Iowa, areas.

Q: What medical issues have you seen in these babies ?

A: It has been incredibly diverse. We have cared for babies with brain injuries, babies who need complex surgery (including abdominal, genitourinary, heart and thoracic) or invasive heart procedures such as a catheterization, as well as extremely premature babies.

Q: Looking back on the past year, what are you especially proud of?

A: There are so many wonderful people who have worked tirelessly to get this NICU off the ground. Nothing, however, better illustrates the way this team has pulled together than the NICU's "Zero Hospital-Associated Infection" achievement. In a unit in which each patient is highly vulnerable to infection, this is truly a remarkable accomplishment.

Q: No hospital-associated infections? How did your team do it?

A: We are extremely vigilant about infection control by requiring everyone who comes into the unit to scrub their hands for 2 minutes and remove their jewelry. Physicians and staff keep their white coats out of the unit and all providers wear gloves when they touch a baby.

Q: Can you describe the teams that take care of each baby in the NICU?

A: It truly "takes a village" to care for a baby in the NICU. Our team includes neonatologists, pediatric subspecialists, pediatric surgeons, neonatal hospitalists, neonatal nurse practitioners and nurses, respiratory therapists, child life specialists, nutritionists and health psychologists. Above all of these, however, is the family itself. Here, we practice "family-centered" care in which family members play a vital role in decisions regarding their baby's health.

Q: What are some of the more leading-edge advantages of our NICU?

A: We are exceedingly cautious about using any sedatives, which can impair brain development. So, for example, when we want a baby with a brain injury to keep still during an MRI, we use a unique "feed and bundle" approach with a special swaddle blanket that keeps the baby calm during the procedure.

Q: What communication tools are available during a highly urgent situation?

A: Our telehealth capabilities are incredibly useful in this regard. For example, every room in the NICU is hard-wired with a video camera, allowing me or any of my colleagues who may not be physically present to immediately see what is happening with a baby through an app on our cell phone screen. Also, when a baby is being transported to our NICU, the CHETA Team can use an iPad to talk by video connection with a neonatologist from the ambulance as the baby is en route.

Q: How does the AFCH NICU fit into the new "Mother-Baby" joint operating agreement between UW Health and Meriter-UnityPoint Health?

A: In many ways, the joint operating agreement, which took effect January 1, solidifies a process that was already in place. By combining the AFCH NICU and Meriter-UnityPoint Health's NICU and Birthing Center into a single business entity, both hospitals are committed to ensuring that every mother, baby and family are cared for in the place that best suits the infant's needs.

Q: What do you see looking forward?

A: This is still a very new unit and there is enormous potential to build relationships with referring hospitals and physicians across the region. We are very excited about the opportunity for growth.

Date Published: 05/13/2015

News tag(s):  jamie j limjoconicu