Big Improvements for our Northland's Smallest

By KBJR News 1

June 28, 2011 Updated Jun 28, 2011 at 7:42 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - James and Jakob are each no more than 2lbs. They are staying in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at St. Mary's after their mother Kristina Riley gave birth at 25 weeks.

"It's difficult. When you think about having a baby you want to take them home but they are getting great care here so it's comforting to know that."

It's care the NIC Unit at St Mary's has been giving for more than 30 years. Now, they want to take it to the next level with a unit make over, going from one big room, to several smaller rooms.

"We have space for 25 babies here and really the limitations of that space are the limitations of the environment," said Christina Falgier, a NICU physician.

"It does get crowded in here when they pull the curtains, you know it get congested," Riley said, "Sometimes privacy would be nice."

Those privacy issues, along with stimuli like bright lights and noises are all being looked as part of a 2 and a half million dollar fundraising effort.

They hope the money will bring better care to patients in the facility.

"In this area we have office space right now we have some sleep rooms for families," said Carolyn Otruba, the NICU nurse manager. "We're hoping that this is going to turn into our 18 private rooms and the 18 private rooms will provide a spot for families to stay with their babies 24 hours a day."

Addressing environmental and privacy issues will not only mean better care, but even better development of babies in the unit.

"Developmental care is important because the babies are usually bombarded by obnoxious stimuli like bright lights, loud, noises constantly interrupting their quiet sleep," said Lee Muskovitz the medical director of the NICU. "With single patient rooms we could certainly cut down on those stimuli."

Officials hope fundraising will wrap up by the end of the year.
Only then can St Mary's officials and former patient's parents plan out the big project one small step at a time.

The Neo-natal Intensive Care-Unit at Essentia Health is the only level three NICU in the region.