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NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue Reunites Babies with Their Doctors to Celebrate 5th Anniversary of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Dozens of NICU "graduates" walk the red carpet as their care team cheers their good health and "superhero" progress at Bellevue, a state-designated Regional Perinatal Center

Dec 05, 2016

New York, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue today celebrated the fifth anniversary of its state-of-the art Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with dozens of babies and toddlers who are “graduates” of the NICU and their families enjoying a heartfelt reunion with the doctors, nurses, and other health professionals who cared for them while they were patients. The NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue NICU is a New York State Regional Perinatal Center (RPC) that provides intensive, highly skilled care for the tiniest patients — and a place hundreds of families have called “home” over the past five years.
The reunion featured the children walking a red carpet and receiving certificates of achievement and superhero capes, because staff and family members consider NICU graduates to be “real-life superheroes.”
Andrea Mitchell, whose son, Hopeton, was in the NICU for nearly 11 weeks, was among the parents who shared their families’ stories. Mitchell said, “From the moment he was born, the doctors, nurses, and entire NICU team worked assiduously to keep our baby alive. There were days when I saw so much compassion shown by this staff that went beyond the call of duty—way beyond the depths of ‘this is a job.’ A passion to make our babies live!”
“Today we are here to celebrate the babies and toddlers and their families,” said William Hicks, Chief Executive Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. “To the parents, you’ve put your fragile babies in our hands and it is an honor and a privilege for our doctors, nurses, and other staff to use their great skills, expertise, and humanity to care for these children and provide them with health so they can enjoy the life that you’ve given them.
“I also want to recognize the care team for working in one of the busiest and most challenging services in the city,” Hicks said. As a Regional Perinatal Center, the Barbara P. Gimbel Neonatal Intensive Care Unit cares for approximately 400 very sick and dangerously fragile babies a year, including high-risk maternal and neonatal transfers from the 10 other hospitals within the NYC Health + Hospitals health system. The transfers from other NYC Health + Hospitals facilities make up about one quarter of the NICU census.
“Our team is dedicated to caring for sick newborns and fragile premature infants,” said Elena Wachtel, MD, Medical Director of NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit. “We provide complex care and specialized services, such as hypothermia therapy, complex pediatric surgical services, and other consulting services, and we have outcomes that rival any other facility in the city or the country,” she added.
The three-hour party included music, food, and refreshments, face-painting, crafts and activities, a photo booth, and a visit from Santa himself. The NICU grads were given gifts including the superhero capes. And families were encouraged to take photos and connect with their caregivers on a personal level.
Opened in 2011, the Barbara P. Gimbel Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is a state-of-the-art facility. With 25 beds, the unit is specially designed to mimic the nurturing environment of the mother’s womb, reduce the stress of the NICU experience, and help the immediate and long-term health of premature babies and other critically ill infants. Special care is also given to attending to the particular needs of NICU families, as they often arrive terrified and distraught, yet leave grateful and relieved, having become experts in “preemie life.”
The innovative design includes the following unique features:

  • High-tech incubators and monitoring devices to control excessive light, noise, and room temperatures.
  • Modern multi-function beds that convert from radiant warmers to incubators with the touch of a button to eliminate the stress of moving fragile preemies.
  • A “Launch Pad”—a home-like private room where parents can spend a night or two caring for their pre-term babies with the assistance of medical staff before the baby is discharged from the hospital. Evidence shows that when parents are properly prepared to care for their pre-term infant before they leave the hospital, they are better able to provide competent care for the baby after discharge.
  • A fully networked and integrated sound system (Sonicu)—the first in New York State—to monitor sound from inside the incubator and alert staff visually when the noise level is too high. Research has shown that controlling sound levels in the NICU reduces infant stress, promotes better oxygen saturation, and leads to steadier heart and respiratory patterns.
  • More room for family members at the bedside, a Family Lounge, and a dining area and shower on the floor to accommodate parents who spend long stretches of time at the hospital.

As NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue celebrates this five-year milestone, it also celebrates the hospital’s 280th birthday this year, acknowledging the innovators in maternal child health who preceded the visionaries of today. Bellevue physician Dr. Valentine Seaman established the first maternity ward in the country at Bellevue in 1799. Dr. Seaman also began his series of lectures on obstetrics to midwives at Bellevue and published the first book on midwifery in America.