Dr Fisher tends to tiny baby in NICU

Child Health | 5 years ago

Saving the Littlest Lives

The Levine Children’s Hospital neonatology program focuses on making sure newborns with the most complex challenges celebrate many birthdays to come.
When babies enter the world prematurely, it takes an experienced team to care for these fragile little lives. Levine Children’s Hospital has had the privilege of serving many infants and their families over the past decade, now treating around 1,100 patients every year. Just recently, the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) broke our own record, caring for more than 100 babies in a single month.

While Charlotte’s rapid growth is certainly one explanation for higher volumes, there’s more to it, says David Fisher, medical director of the NICU. The medical team has treated almost every complex condition for these tiny patients. Their skills, combined with the latest technology, have advanced dramatically in just 10 years, offering life-saving care that was once unimaginable.

It's no wonder the growing reputation of LCH now draws more hospitals across the Southeast to send their smallest and sickest patients here. Our Level IV NICU is the largest between Atlanta and Washington, DC, offering the highest level of around-the-clock care.

Supporting families along the journey

When babies need to be in the NICU to thrive, it can be overwhelming for new moms and dads dealing with a reality they hadn’t expected. LCH launched the Neonatal Family Navigator Program in 2011 providing nurses who guide these families during stressful as well as happy times. Navigators explain treatment plans, connect families to information and community resources, and offer emotional support for as long as the child is at LCH. It has helped shorten how long the infant stays in the hospital and improved patient/family satisfaction.

In March 2018, the NICU launched a new kind of navigator program- specifically for families with infants who have chronic lung disease. The infant apnea nurses advocate for NICU patients and families after they’ve graduated from the NICU. They translate complex medical information into language they can understand and apply, and making the overwhelming more manageable. They will also help families navigate their way to timely and quality care while helping overcoming barriers.

Pioneering new technologies

From its beginning, LCH has brought innovative technologies to give babies the best possible outcomes. And our team works tirelessly to find cutting-edge solutions and build on them. For example, preemies often have underdeveloped lungs that can lead to chronic breathing problems. But even the best mechanical ventilation can have its own side effects, sometimes injuring little lungs with invasive tubes. LCH was the first pediatric hospital in the region to use noninvasive ventilation to help infants with breathing.

Our team took it a step further, using the technology to measure a baby’s breathing and provide “back-up breaths” when breathing is disrupted. This way, infants are given just the support they need until they can breathe on their own.

Technology has even transformed the way visitors wash their hands, critical to keeping infections away from vulnerable newborns. LCH requires visitors to use our touch-free, fully automated hand washing system prior to entering the NICU or NPCN. This system kills up to 99.98 percent of harmful germs found on the skin, offering greater protection to our patients.

Sharing what we do best

In addition to caring for the most fragile lives here in Charlotte, our neonatology team also supports other NICU programs. Earlier this year, employees from Atrium Health (formerly Carolinas HealthCare System) traveled to Guatemala to help open the country’s most innovative, neonatal/pediatric intensive care unit and the largest facility of its kind in Central America. It was created with support from International Medical Outreach, a partnership between Atrium Health and the Heineman Foundation. Over the last decade, we’ve learned that saving the most vulnerable infants requires teamwork of every kind, from every imaginable place.