New hope for babies born before 28 weeks gestation

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — There’s new hope for babies born before 28 weeks gestation in Mobile. A new “small baby unit” at USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital is now operational. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday.

Sweet little Tatum was born on March 7, 2019, weighing just over a pound. Now, about three months later, he’s gaining weight, and getting healthier by the day, thanks to the doctors and nurses in the new Small Baby Unit. It’s the first facility of its kind on the Gulf Coast.

“We were trying to put babies with specific needs together that were similar. So those babies that are born before 28 weeks and before 1,000 grams have a lot of not only medical needs but neuro-developmental needs. So they are born and having to process our environment much earlier than they should have to and so not only, so they have medical needs that need to be met, but they also have neurological needs,” said Cathy Mccurley, RN at USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital.

And there are several advantages to grouping them together in one room.

Mccurley said, “We have to be careful about lighting and sound, and good touch, bad touch, and all of those kinds of things as well as their medical concerns. And grouping them together allows us to focus on them as a group rather than having to when they’re spread out amongst the other patients you may not have them paired well and that runs into problems in trying to manage that aspect of their care.”

And the close quarters also gives parents of these tiny babies the opportunity to share their experience with each other, and know they’re not alone.

Research shows babies born before 28 weeks gestation or weighing less than 2.2 pounds have better health outcomes where a specially trained team provides care, and we’re told survival rate is improving.

Cullen Potter is one example. His mother, Molli Potter, says he needed to be delivered, but she had a hard time finding a hospital with doctors who would deliver before 24 weeks. Then she called USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital.

She said, “He was born at 22 weeks weighing 13.9-ounces.”

“Cullen” had to stay in the hospital for 160 days.

“He was the size of my hand and didn’t even look like a baby,” Potter said.

Today, he’s doing much better, and he just turned a year old on March 14, 2019.

Potter told News 5, “He just got a complete clean bill of health from every single doctor that he’s seen. No medications, nothing. He’s working on walking just like every other baby his age.”

Potter wants other parents in her situation to know; there is hope.

She said, “So many give up on them without even trying. Our hospital point-blank said, No. He’s not worth it, 2-percent chance, we’re not going to do anything. I want people to see that they can make it. That they not only can make it, but they can have a good quality of life just like any other baby.”

This new small baby unit can hold 22 babies. We’re told babies usually stay in the unit until their original due date. We’re also told the next closest unit like this is in Tennessee.

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