Just like parents showing off their bundle of joy, Anne Arundel Medical Center is sharing its own new arrival: a $4 million neonatal intensive care unit for the hospital's tiniest patients.
The bright, homey, yet high-tech NICU made its debut Sunday during a morning reception attended by an enthusiastic crowd of benefactors, medical staff and former patients who had received loving care in less-than-ideal circumstances in the hospital's former unit.
At 7,000 square feet, it boasts 20 individual rooms for infants and overnight stays by parents. It replaces a 900-square-foot NICU, where 21 incubators and bassinets stood just a few feet from each other, the beeping of dozens of monitors was incessant, and nurses and parents often bumped into each other. "Overflow" babies stayed in a staffed, retrofitted hospital room on another floor.
AAMC began planning the project years ago, as the number of deliveries greatly increased - from 2,000 at the old downtown Annapolis hospital in 1995 to more than 5,000 this year at the Clatanoff Pavilion on the Jennifer Road campus. The hospital now ranks second in deliveries statewide.
The medical director of AAMC's Women's & Children's Center, Dr. Susan Peeler, said that 10 percent of babies born at AAMC "need a little extra help, an extra watchful eye.
"It is a pleasure to have this new neonatal unit for babies who will grow up to be the strongest, most loved ones," she said. "[This is] a place to help these little treasures thrive."
The NICU's population averages 18 babies, said Dr. Suzanne Rindfleisch, NICU director. They range from full-term infants suffering from mild respiratory distress to 23-week premature infants requiring full support and stays as long as four months.
"The NICU makes a great contribution to the community," she said, "making families feel even more comfortable during stressful times."
Infused with natural light and a color scheme of pastel pink, aqua and yellow, the decor is soothingly unlike a hospital despite its state-of-the-art equipment. Babies will snuggle down under the watchful eyes of not only doctors and nurses, but also the baby animals in woodland paintings on the wall above each bassinet and incubator.
Each room is equipped with a monitor that continuously assesses a baby's condition. When a problem occurs, the monitor prints an information strip for the staff, said Adele Powers, a neonatal nurse at AAMC for five years. Control columns beside each bed are equipped with outlets and ports. Several outlets are bright red, indicating a direct connection to an auxiliary generator in the case of a power outage. Computer screens enable nurses to monitor babies in nearby rooms while tending to another.
Twins are often born premature - less than 34 or 35 weeks of gestation - said Rindfleisch, so the NICU has two twin suites - double rooms with connecting doors so parents and staff can move between them easily.
To make parents' hours with their babies more comfortable, some of the rooms have reclining chairs for sleeping and showers in the private bathrooms.
A central transitional nursery in the NICU accommodates six newborns who briefly require extra care.
The new, expanded NICU is named "Teddy's Place" in honor of Florence E. Cornelison, the much loved "Aunt Ted" of Suzanne Lord who, along with her husband, Albert Lord, donated $1 million to the project.
"Aunt Ted was a character," Suzanne Lord said. "One of her favorite sayings had to do with a couple contemplating marriage: `Does the lid fit the pot?' she would say."
The Lords looked around for "the perfect fit" for their gift and decided on the NICU project. "Teddy's Place," said Mrs. Lord, "the perfect lid for the pot."
Guests on Sunday included the grandparents of a baby who had spent three days in the NICU. Jim and Sylvia Earl represented their daughter-in-law and son, Diane McBee and Mathew Earl. The young couple had made a donation to the new NICU after their son Mathew David Earl was born at AAMC 18 months ago.
"When we visited him in the NICU," said the grandmother, "we saw the excellent care he was getting from everybody involved, but we saw a need for a larger unit."
Other benefactors at Sunday's ribbon cutting were Tara and Scott Buebendorf of Annapolis. They suffered the loss of their son, Hayden, one month after he was born prematurely in June 2003 and have nothing but praise for the NICU staff.
"Our experience with the staff was that they were intelligent, caring and compassionate, the nurses, the nurse practitioners and doctors," Tara Buebendorf said.
"We learned so much from having our son, so many life lessons, having him with us for a month," she said. "Never did we question his care. They did everything they could to make Hayden stay with us. Providing them with a greater level of facilities was just a no-brainer for us."
Chip Doordan, president of Anne Arundel Health System, said that the opening of the new NICU marks the end of Phase 1 of the hospital's long-term expansion plan. In the works, he said, are plans for construction of three new parking garages, a new doctors' office building next to the Sajak Pavilion and a nine-story addition to the Acute Care Pavilion.
For information on maternity services at the Clatanoff Pavilion, call 443-481-6989 or visit www.aahs.org.