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St. Mary Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Celebrates 20th Anniversary
Reunion picnic in Core Creek Park will celebrate patients and families and highlight advancements in neonatal care over the past 20 years.

LANGHORNE, Pa., October 15, 2009 – St. Mary Medical Center today announced that it will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with the Precious Pumpkins Picnic, a patient reunion on Saturday, October 24, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Core Creek Park, Pavilion 11, in Langhorne.

Former patients and their families, physicians, nurses, colleagues, volunteers, and the community are invited to attend the picnic. The event will recognize medical advancements in neonatal care over the past 20 years, and serve as a celebration and reunion for the children who now lead healthy and productive lives, thanks in part to the high quality care they received from the St. Mary NICU, its physicians, nurses, and staff.

The Precious Pumpkin Picnic will feature a wide variety of activities for families and children of all ages, including pony rides, face painting, sand art, games, a moonbounce, pumpkin carving, and pumpkin painting. A picnic lunch will be served and a DJ from B101 WBEB-FM will provide music and entertainment.

World Series Baby Boom?

According to St. Mary Medical Center’s birthing records, there was
a noticeable increase in the number of babies born in July 2009
– exactly 10 months after the Phillies clinched their World Series
Championship. That month the Mother Baby Unit had 172 deliveries,
the highest number in the previous 12 months. It seems families were
also influenced by individual players as more boys were named
Chase, James (Jimmy), Ryan, Jayson, Shane, and Cole in July and
August 2009 than the same time in 2008. Apparently Philadelphians do love their Phillies!

“Our entire staff looks forward to the 20th anniversary celebration and to seeing the children and families who we become so close to while providing urgent neonatal care,” comments the NICU’s Director of Nursing/Maternal-Child Health Marie Schickler, RN. “It will be a great day for the children to enjoy fun activities and for all of us to reflect on how far they’ve come since their time in the St. Mary NICU,” continues Schickler.

Since its opening in 1989, the St. Mary NICU has cared for 1,800 babies who were in need of intensive and often life-saving treatment. In the past 20 years, the St. Mary Mother Baby Unit has delivered more than 30,000 babies, and annually delivers more than 1,600 babies. The NICU now is a six-bed unit with an additional six beds in its transitional nursery that is used for babies undergoing longer-term care. It also includes a private home-like visiting area for families with a sitting area, television, educational materials, and lactation support as needed.

In April 2009, the St. Mary NICU became the first neonatal intensive care unit in Bucks County to have board-certified neonatologists in-house 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, recently purchased warmer beds incorporate the latest in monitory technology and equipment. These are used in the NICU to ensure that the care given to St. Mary’s smallest patients is state-of-the art.

The field of neonatal intensive care has seen many advancements over the past 20 years, and the St. Mary NICU often has been on the forefront of these advances. Soon after opening, the NICU became the first in the area to use surfactant therapy to help premature infants with respiratory problems. Another major advancement in the 1990s came with the use of a high-frequency ventilation protocol for premature infants that helped lessen the trauma to a baby’s lungs when receiving treatment. The St. Mary NICU has successfully treated patients born as early as 24-weeks gestation.

One of the first patients of the NICU is now Indiana University of Pennsylvania student Patrick Donohue, who was born at 33 weeks of gestation and spent about 10 days at the NICU. Now almost 20 years of age and a Dean’s List student at college, Donohue reflects on the experience his family went through after his premature birth. He has seen video of himself as an infant receiving care in the NICU and knows that it was a very scary and uncertain time for his family. “My entire family was very worried, and they prayed and stayed with me 24/7. I think it was a miracle that I made it, and I am very grateful to the St. Mary NICU staff for the great care that I received and the life that I’ve been able to lead partly because of that care,” Donohue says. His father, Patrick Donohue, now is the Director of Marketing and Communications of St. Mary Medical Center.

Sunny Zegarski, daughter of Michael and Annisha, is a more recent patient of the NICU who was born at 30 weeks gestation on December 6, 2007, and spent 58 days in the NICU. At birth, Sunny weighed just one pound, 13 ounces and was 13 inches long. Throughout her stay at the NICU, Michael and Annisha grew very close to the staff who cared for their daughter. “The nurses at the St. Mary NICU taught us everything we needed to know to care for our daughter, including how to hold, diaper, and feed her. They were wonderful and really kept us sane through a very stressful time in our lives,” says Annisha. Now almost two years old, Sunny’s parents enjoy bringing her by the NICU to show the staff how much she has grown since her time under their care.

Dr. Prem Marlapudi, Medical Director of the NICU, has been with the unit since its inception and has seen many advancements in care over the past 20 years. “We are proud of the NICU and are particularly proud of our mortality, morbidity, and infection rates, which are very low compared to NICUs of the same level nationally,” notes Marlapudi. “Yet we are most proud of our patients and the incredible progress that they make during their time in the NICU, and especially once they go home with their families. Our patients become like family, and we frequently have parents stop by to visit us and bring in their now healthy children to show us how far they have come,” he continues. Dr. Marlapudi recalls the 10-year reunion fondly, and is proud that he remembered the names of almost every parent.

The NICU is part of the larger Mother Baby Unit at St. Mary that includes seven attractive and spacious birthing rooms. To ensure maximum patient comfort, labor, delivery, and recovery take place in the same home-like suites. Skilled, specially trained obstetrical nurses assess and monitor the progress of labor throughout the birthing process. In addition, two maternal operating rooms for Cesarean section and other surgical procedures are readily available if needed. After delivery, new mothers are transferred to private rooms and may choose 24-hour rooming-in or request that their baby be cared for in the nursery to allow time to rest. In addition to Labor and Delivery and the NICU, St. Mary offers a comprehensive range of Women’s Health services including obstetrics and gynecology, an on-site perinatal center, a wellness center, and a wide range of maternity education classes.

For more information about the Precious Pumpkins Picnic, or to register for this event, please call 215.710.5888.