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Breathing Easier in the St. Charles NICU

Struggling newborns at St. Charles Bend can literally breathe a little easier today thanks to a gift to St. Charles Foundation from the Will Rogers Institute. So can their parents. With the purchase of much needed resuscitation equipment for the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), St. Charles now meets new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and can work toward decreasing NICU admissions and reducing the time a baby spends there.

When AAP released their 6th edition of guidelines, it required all birthing centers to have new models of pulse oxymeters and oxygen blenders. Not knowing about this change ahead of the budget process, it was going to be virtually impossible to meet these guidelines in a timely manner, according to Crystal Sully, Pediatrics and NICU Manager.

"From a budgetary standpoint the Will Rogers Institute grant was a god-send," she said. "Our hospital operates a Level III NICU, and it's the only intensive care unit for newborns in this region of our state. This equipment ensures we have the highest standard of care for our newborns needing resuscitation."

With 10% of all newborns at St. Charles requiring resuscitation, this equipment will treat at least 170 babies each year. Additionally, almost 30% of the 1,700 annual births at St. Charles are cesarean sections. Respiratory therapists always stand by during those births, as well as all high-risk pregnancies. The new equipment is an essential part of their resuscitation tool kits.

Pulse oxymeters measure the oxygen content of a baby's blood. Readings could take up to two minutes with old style devices, "a long time if a baby is in respiratory distress," said Sara Mosher, NICU Clinical Practice Coordinator and March of Dimes NICU Family Support Specialist. The new units display information in less than one minute. The other new equipment is oxygen blenders. According to new guidelines, oxygen should be blended with room air. The blenders create the proper balance.

Mosher, who was key in implementing the new guidelines and coordinating staff training on the new equipment, explained that prior to this grant, which was used to purchase the equipment for each room, a portable set-up was created and only three were available in house. These portable set-ups had to be wheeled around and taken to rooms when resuscitations were anticipated, but if a baby unexpectedly needed breathing support, the equipment was not immediately available to assist that baby.

"Due to the amazing support of the Will Rogers grant, this equipment was purchased, installed and trained on for use by all neonatal responders in Family Birthing and in NICU," said Mosher. "This equipment is making deliveries safer for all babies born at St. Charles Bend."

To donate a financial gift to the NICU or Family Birthing Center, please contact St. Charles Foundation at 541-706-6996 or giving@stcharlesfoundation.org.