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Parents Have Critical Role in URMC Neonatal Unit Design

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Rochester: Parents Have Critical Role in URMC Neonatal Unit Design
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Anticipation is building as construction has begun on a $100-million transformation at Golisano Children's Hospital. One of the most critical parts of that transformation is a total re-design of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). YNN's Geoff Redick takes us inside some the coming improvements at NICU, and where those ideas first came from.

Cory Milburn is Golisano Children's Hospital's "Miracle Baby." Born thirteen weeks early back in April 2007, Cory's lungs were under-developed when he came out of the womb.

"Having a preemie baby, a sick baby, is the one thing you never prepare for," says his mother, Patti Milburn.

Cory fought hard for a month, but was just a breath away from infant death on June 1st, 2007. Laying in his incubator, Cory was given his Christian last rites inside the Golisano Children's Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

But in the hour of greatest doubt, a miracle happened.

"There were a few experimental things that I could not promise would work," recalls Dr. Sanjiv Amin.

An aggressive steroid treatment that threatened to hamper Cory's later adolescent development, was among those options.

"We tried, and he just improved over the next 24 hours," says Dr. Amin. "It took a long time to get back to a position, where we could say, 'Maybe now he will survive.'"

Cory did, and despite the threats to his development, Cory is now a kindergarten student with no special help in the classroom. His story has become one of the hallmark achievements for the NICU. But in the years since, that achievement has become overshadowed by a glaring deficiency in the unit: space.

"There's not a lot of personal space," says Patti Milburn of the unit that saved her son's life. "You can't be alone with your baby."

Nurses and doctors agree. "It's very cramped to have a mother and a father at the baby's bedside, and be a nurse caring for the baby," says NICU Nurse Leader, Lisa Brei. "Often times, we have to work around them, or even ask them to move."

As many as six babies can be housed inside the NICU at once. With doctors, nurses, parents, family, visitors, deliveries and more - the NICU becomes crowded, fast.

Back in Spring 2012, the University of Rochester Medical Center announced a plan to renovate most of Golisano Children's Hospital. A big part of that was a full-scale expansion and re-design of the NICU.

Ideas for the project came from parents who experienced the NICU firsthand, like Patti Milburn.

"I feel that it's our way of giving back, coming and talking for families," says Patti. "There's a need to share, so that you can pass on all of this information...make it better so that other babies can survive, like Cory."

The NICU will earn its own, new wing in the hospital. Families will now have their own private rooms, complete with ready-to-customize decorative shelves and fixtures.

"When you are a parent of a NICU baby, it's the very first nursery that you have," says Patti. "We're very fortunate to have taken our child home. There are many babies who don't get to go home. So as a first-time parent or a second or third-time parent, it'll be nice for the baby have their own room."

"Sometimes it's the family part that's really important," says Brei. "We (nurses and doctors) do the baby thing every day. It's important to step outside of that, to take care of the parents, the grandparents, the siblings."

The expansion will also give more space to life-saving doctors, like Sanjiv Amin.

"(During Cory's ordeal) I literally stayed at the bedside until about 2 a.m., trying to work around and trying to see how Cory could improve," says Amin. Having the added space is expected to streamline workflow for medical staff, as well as the multitude of nurses whom Amin credits for his life-saving maneuvers in Cory's hour of need.

Ground was broken earlier this year for the new Children's Hospital expansion. Cory Milburn was one of the children given the honor of shoveling the first bits of dirt.

Opening of the completed project is slated for 2015.

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