Wolfson NICU – 50 Years – The Resident Community News Group, Inc.
The new tower features world-class technology
In the five decades since Wolfson Children’s Hospital opened its first neonatal intensive care unit, technology and medical interventions have advanced so much that premature babies are surviving with birth weights far lower than they would have been. possible in their early years. With the opening this year of the multi-story neonatal intensive care center in the Borowy family’s children’s intensive care tower, some of the advanced technologies are the first of their kind.
“The Critical Care Tower is probably the most modern in the world. When you don’t have a program and now you have the best in the country, it’s so rewarding,” said neonatologist Thomas W. Chiu, MD, MBA, Wolfson NICU’s first medical director who remained involved until to retire at the end of 2021. Fifty years saving the life of a 2-pound baby born at 28 weeks would have been a miracle, he said; now some born as young as 22 weeks and weighing less than a pound can survive and thrive.
In addition to the latest technology and highly trained neonatologists, having a well-trained team including nurses, lab technicians, social workers and others is essential, said Chiu, professor emeritus, University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville.
Wolfson President Michael Aubin called the NICU’s technological advancements breathtaking. Computer screens in spacious patient rooms show data doctors don’t yet know is a cause for concern, and parents can monitor their newborns’ care anywhere on smartphones.
Aubin said the most significant technical improvement in the building is the predictive analytics system developed in conjunction with Philips, a global healthcare technology company. “The first to be deployed in the neonatal environment is here in Jacksonville,” he said. “It communicates with other equipment in the room and collects a lot of information.”
Using complex algorithms, the system monitors an enormous amount of patient information, including lab and X-ray results, and alerts staff to negative trends that have not yet reached critical condition.
“It allows our practitioners to touch a screen and see graphs showing trend lines for all major organ systems in the body and know that if they don’t act now, the baby may have a stroke. brain or heart failure or respiratory distress,” Aubin said. “We’re excited because we’ll also be working in partnership with Philips to further develop this system and identify other things we can add to help predict before they happen.”
The tower’s cutting-edge technology also includes a neonatal MRI system designed to image the developing brains of tiny newborns. “We are the third hospital in the country to obtain it. The first was at Harvard and the second at Yale,” Aubin said.
the old days
From incubators where babies sleep to iPads used to close blinds, the differences between the early and modern day NICUs are astounding. “They’re like little space capsules,” Aubin said of today’s incubators, “like a womb outside the womb for these very premature babies that keeps them safe and temperature controlled.”
Cherie Baker, RN, BSN, NICU head nurse from 1977 to 1979, recalls the latest development then being a radiant heater, an open bed with a heater on top. “You recorded a probe on the baby’s stomach that would tell you what his temperature was and the radiant heater on top would increase or decrease, as needed,” she said. “Before that, you had to reach out and do everything.”
Another device, vastly improved today, was the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine used to provide breathing assistance to newborn babies. “They had glass bottles that were glued to the floor so no one knocked them over,” Baker said. “The pipes went over the radiant heater.”
Compared to the spectacular three-stage NICU, the four-room NICU of the 1970s was tiny. Baker said there was a large central room with a computer, a small kitchen area and a bedroom with 11 beds for the sickest newborns.
“The whole NICU in the 70s was just over 1,000 square feet. Now one of the rooms to handle a baby is over 1,000 square feet,” Chiu said.
Prior to going to Wolfson, Baker had worked with Chiu at the NICU at Jacksonville University Hospital, later called Shands Jacksonville and now UF Health. She has been on airlifts around Florida and Georgia to pick up babies in need of specialized neonatal care. Although Chiu was deeply involved with NICU Wolfson throughout its existence, he served on the UF faculty and was instrumental in bringing together several Jacksonville hospitals to provide neonatology services in the 1970s.
Chiu played a major role in forming the city’s neonatal program where pediatricians and other specialists from University, Wolfson, Memorial, St. Vincent’s, Riverside and Orange Park hospitals shared resources. They trained nurse practitioners to do NICU work, scheduled neonatologists around the clock, and became a national model. Wolfson quickly became the city’s leading NICU, largely due to his surgical, neurological, cardiac, and other support.
“All newborn surgeries are now performed at Wolfson,” Chiu said.
“I couldn’t have imagined what NICU has today,” said Baker, regional manager of Spark Pediatrics. “I learned a lot from Dr. Chiu. He was so diplomatic with everyone and he could get things done.
Throughout Wolfson NICU’s history, strong family support has been its priority. The new tower’s family-friendly features are vastly improved over the newer NICU which could hold almost 60 babies but had few or no family facilities. It was not possible for parents to stay overnight and even the 20-bed pediatric ICU did not have a private bathroom.
In the tower, each patient room has a bed that can accommodate two adults, a full bathroom, storage space, a large wardrobe and its own private hall/living room where the brothers and sisters can play. A series of security systems protect families and parents are involved in looking after their children 24/7.
The ability for families to stay comfortably with their children and participate as partners in their care is the most important part of the new NICU, Aubin said: “The average length of stay is 25 days. Research shows that when a newborn has parents there and the parents can have kangaroo skin-to-skin care, the baby’s immune system develops faster, it grows faster, and the length of stay is scaled down.
“As excited as we are about the new building and all of its features, it is the staff caring for these patients that makes all the difference in the world,” added Aubin. “Without them, it’s just a building.”
A new tower pays tribute to the Borowy family
The beautiful building that serves as the new “gateway” to the expanded campus of Jacksonville Baptist Medical Center and Wolfson Children’s Hospital features world-class technology that saves the lives of infants and children seriously ill and injured.
Five of the seven floors of the 225,000 square foot Borowy Family Children’s Critical Care Tower are dedicated to high-level care for children:
- Three-story neonatal intensive care center with three separate three-story neonatal intensive care units
- Pediatric intensive care unit which includes a neuro-intensive care unit
- Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit
- Specialized burn and wound care unit
- The $224 million expansion project began in May 2019 and a phased opening began in February.
“They have a special place in their hearts for children,” said Michael Aubin, President of Wolfson, Dr. Thom and Pat Borowy and their children, Hayden Borowy and Megan Borowy Walker and their son-in-law Mark Walker. “The family has provided very significant philanthropic support in many areas of Baptist for many years. They knew we needed a large donation to be able to provide all the technology we wanted to put into the new building. So they stepped up and made this important gift which we honored by naming the intensive care tower in their honour.
The first two floors are the lobby. The new entrance features an 85-foot skybridge from the P2 parking garage across Palm Avenue, making a dramatic statement that showcases artwork and donor recognition spaces. State-of-the-art technology ranges from a neonatal MRI system to humidity-controlled chambers to prevent infections in the pediatric ICU burn unit.
“It’s a fascinating place,” Aubin said. “We tried to think of every little detail.”
Aubin credits the Women’s Board with raising funds for many of Wolfson’s advances. “They’ve been working on developing a great endowment that will help us support this going forward,” he said.
How to help: To contribute to Wolfson’s Hope Starts Here campaign to transform the delivery of critical care for infants and children, go to hopestartshere.com. For questions or to give gifts dedicated to Wolfson, call (904) 202-6296.
By Lorrie DeFrank
Resident Community News