NICU

There’s Room at This Inn: Firefighters Battling Kincade Fire Find Respite in Rebuilt Home for Families of Hospitalized Babies

Posted on Nov 7, 2019 in NICU, People, Scroll Images, Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa

Newly-reopened facility was destroyed in 2017 Tubbs Fire

SANTA ROSA, Calif. –Sutter Health’s mission is to care for the health and well-being of its neighbors, especially in an emergency. So when Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital was ordered to evacuate patients on Oct. 26 for the second time in two years, the Elizabeth and Bill Shea House, normally used by families of hospitalized babies, was offered to firefighters as a place to rest.

The Elizabeth and Bill Shea House

About 100 firefighters representing Cal Fire, Pacifica, Napa, Clearlake, Pomona, Mill Valley, Walnut Creek and Santa Rosa, who were using the hospital’s parking lot as a staging area, accepted the offer to relax, catch up on much-needed sleep, rehydrate and have a snack at Shea House before returning to the frontlines of the fire.

“We were so pleased to be able to offer the first responders a comfortable place to take a break from fighting the Kincade Fire,” said Mike Purvis, CEO of Sutter Santa Rosa. “Sutter Santa Rosa has been a part of this community for many years and we were glad to support their efforts to save it.”

Ironically, finishing touches had just been completed on the newly-rebuilt Shea House –which was destroyed in the 2017 Tubbs Fire.

Now that the Kincade Fire is contained and Sutter Santa Rosa has reopened for patients, Shea House is again providing free lodging for low-income families of hospitalized babies who need a nearby place to stay while their newborns are cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

About the Elizabeth and Bill Shea House

Nothing is more stressful for a parent and family than having a hospitalized child. The feeling of helplessness can be overwhelming, especially when home is far from the hospital. Studies have long shown that parent presence at the bedside of a sick child is critical to bonding and long-term recovery. For low-income families that don’t live near the hospital, staying in the area can be a significant hardship.

Since it opened in 2004, more than 560 families from across Northern California, including far-flung communities like Ukiah, Gualala, Potter Valley, Sea Ranch, Middletown, Talmage and Willits, have benefited from the comfort of Shea House’s home-like environment. Families stay in one of four private suites anywhere from one to 60 days, with an average stay of about nine days. Shea House also offers guests a fully-equipped kitchen, laundry facilities and comfortable indoor and outdoor areas in which to relax. With the average cost of a nearby hotel room running $225 per night, it’s easy to see how a lengthy hospital stay could be a hardship on any family, let alone one with limited financial resources. To date, Shea House has provided more than $831,000 worth of accommodation to these families.

The Elizabeth and Bill Shea House was rebuilt through the generosity of community donors and its namesakes, Elizabeth and Bill Shea. Shea House’s operational costs are entirely supported by the Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital Foundation.

About Sutter Santa Rosa’s Care for Sonoma County’s NICU Patients and Their Families

For nearly 50 years, Sutter Santa Rosa’s NICU has provided the highest level of intensive care for newborns in the community. An average of 300 newborns are admitted to its NICU each year. These babies and their families would otherwise have to travel to San Francisco to receive life-saving treatment. With 12 NICU beds, three full-time neonatologists and 39 specially trained nurses, the NICU offers pediatric subspecialties including neurology and leading-edge technology to ensure the best possible outcomes for its tiny patients and provides their families with support services to address the many challenges they face in caring for their newborns.

A PAL for Preemies: Musical Pacifier Helps Babies Learn to Eat

Posted on Jul 24, 2019 in California Pacific Medical Center, NICU, Pediatric Care, Quality, Scroll Images

SAN FRANCISCO — Born a month and a half early at just 34 weeks, tiny baby Olive O’Neill was so premature that she was unable to feed orally. But by sucking on a pacifier that plays a lullaby sung by her parents, baby Olive quickly learned how to feed and has successfully gone home to her family.

Baby Olive using the PAL

The innovative device is called a PAL, short for Pacifier-Activated Lullaby. The PAL works by motivating babies to suck on a specially designed pacifier to help strengthen their sucking reflex.

At birth, premature infants often lack a developed sucking reflex. The inability to feed on their own is a common reason they remain hospitalized after birth. To help these newborns develop the sucking reflex more quickly so they can go home sooner, California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) Van Ness Campus hospital in San Francisco, part of Sutter Health’s integrated not-for-profit network of care, is now using the PAL in its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Research backs the PAL

According to music therapist Elisha Madsen, MME, MT-BC, who works with parents in CPMC’s NICU to train their infants with the special pacifier, studies show that premature infants who receive PAL therapy develop an increased ability to eat on their own more quickly, gain weight and have a reduced length of NICU hospitalization.

Studies have determined that average NICU hospital stays were 20 percent shorter (nine days on average) for babies who received PAL treatment versus babies who did not. Studies also have shown that babies increased their sucking rates up to 2.5 times more than infants who did not receive PAL. Increased sucking translates to improved oral feeding skills, which can directly affect a baby’s ability to go home from the NICU sooner.

How PAL works

The PAL is attached to a sensor that measures the strength of the baby’s sucking. When the PAL detects that the baby has sucked on the pacifier to a predetermined strength, the baby earns a reward – a lullaby recorded by the baby’s mom or dad. Music therapist Madsen explains that hearing their parent singing a lullaby motivates babies to continue sucking on the pacifier, which in turn improves the sucking reflex.

Charles and Alissa O’Neill, who recorded the traditional lullaby “London Bridge is Falling Down” for their daughter Olive, credit the PAL with helping her develop the ability to feed.

“Having the PAL is great because you could see instantly that she had a really good response to both her mom’s voice and my voice – which helped her develop her sucking,” says Olive’s dad, Charles.

“The last couple of weeks of our stay at CPMC were focused around feeding and helping Olive [learn to] feed on her own,” adds mom Alissa. “After we used the PAL, we also sang to Olive to help encourage her to feed.”

Madsen says that, within a couple of minutes, most babies learn they will have to suck on the pacifier to receive their music reward. “Parents light up when they see their baby is responding to their singing voices and is learning the skills needed to eat and go home,” Madsen says. “It is just precious to see this reaction.”

CPMC’s Level III NICU: Life-saving Technologies and Compassionate Support

CPMC’s Van Ness Campus hospital NICU is a designated level III NICU capable of caring for very small or very sick newborn babies that may need continuous life support and comprehensive care. Level III NICUs also offer a full range of pediatric medical subspecialists capable of providing critical medical and surgical care and to address problems that premature and critically ill newborns may have.

Studies have shown better outcomes for very low birth weight infants and premature infants who are born at level III centers, leading to recommendations that women at risk be transported to these centers to give birth. Through Sutter Health’s integrated network of care, women with high-risk pregnancies, and babies born prematurely or with complications, can be transported to a higher level of NICU with seamless coordination of medical care and support. This seamless care can reduce complication, reduce hospital readmissions and reduce the overall cost of care.