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New hospital nursery keeps babies and mothers together

March 13, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

When Ethan Hoffman was born a month early on Feb. 3 with underdeveloped lungs, he was cared for in Washington County Hospital's Special Care Nursery, about a minute's walk from his mother's hospital room.

If he had been born three days earlier, he would have been transported to a Baltimore hospital while his mother remained at the Hagerstown hospital.

They could have been separated for at least four days, which would have been a horrible feeling, says his mother, Chera Vandruff, 21, of Hagerstown.

The Special Care Nursery, which opened Feb. 1, allows Washington County Hospital to care for babies born up to eight weeks premature, says Jody Bishop, administrative director for the hospital's Women's and Children's Service. Before the nursery opened, the hospital could care for babies up to four weeks premature.

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Nursery staff also care for babies with some respiratory problems, Bishop says.

A neonatologist from Neonatology Associates, based in Shady Grove, Md., is always at the hospital, not just on-call, Bishop says. The nursery also is staffed by nurses with specialized training.

Before, hospital staff might have had to call a pediatrician at home to come in for an emergency, Bishop says.

The nursery consists of several specialized pieces of equipment that can be moved once a new hospital is built, Bishop says. These include baby ventilators and a continuous pressure airway machine, which blows air into a baby's nose to remind the baby to breathe and keep its lungs open. That means the baby does not have to be intubated.

The new hospital will have a larger Special Care Nursery able to accommodate 10 to 12 babies, whereas this one can treat six to eight babies at a time.

Equipment and renovations for the new nursery have cost $224,530, says hospital spokeswoman Marina Shannon. Funds for the nursery's equipment were raised through Festival of Trees, Tree of Lights and Crystal Ball events.

Since opening, the nursery has served an average of five babies a day, Bishop says.

Babies do better if kept in the hospital where they are born because being moved and jostled about is stressful for them, she says.

The new nursery also keeps mom and baby nearby one another in the Family Birthing Center, until it's time for mom to check out of the hospital. But, then mom doesn't have as far to drive to see the baby.

"It's wonderful. It's such a big relief, to be able to walk down to your son instead of driving (to Baltimore)," Vandruff says.

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