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UMass Memorial Neonatal unit turns 40

Telegram & Gazette Sept 14, 2014

Registered nurse Lynn Ellsworth of North Grafton plays with her former patient, Luke Goyette, 11 months, of Millbury during the UMass Memorial Neonatal Intensive Care Unit's 40th anniversary celebration Saturday. (T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN)
Registered nurse Lynn Ellsworth of North Grafton plays with her former patient, Luke Goyette, 11 months, of Millbury during the UMass Memorial Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s 40th anniversary celebration Saturday. (T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN)

By Michael Gelbwasser CORRESPONDENT

WORCESTER — Aaron Bissell spent his infancy fighting for survival in the UMass Memorial Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Now, 21 years later, “I’m well. I’m doing a lot of writing. And I take singing lessons. I pretty much do a lot of creative stuff,” said Mr. Bissell, of Grafton.

The neonatal intensive care unit’s 40th birthday was celebrated Saturday at the UMass Memorial Medical Center — University Campus, 55 Lake Ave. North. Numerous former patients of all ages gathered for a group photo on the front lawn.

The festivities celebrated “all the families that were able to have their children come home with them,” to remember the children “that left this world, frankly, too soon,” and to thank the families for letting the doctors and nurses “care for their children,” said Dr. Alan Picarillo, the UMass Memorial Medical Center’s chief of neonatology.

“It was a total privilege of caring for these children,” he said. “These families would leave them with us for long periods of time.”

The unit has cared for more than 20,000 infants since opening in 1974 with six beds, hospital officials said. The program now has 49 beds. Aaron Bissell and his twin brother Eric, born at 26 weeks, were treated “at the old NICU, over at Memorial Hospital,” in 1993, according to their mother, Cynthia.

“I can tell you, the first couple of years, both of the boys were very medically fragile. It was totally scary,” she said. “I’m a nurse, so I knew the risks involved in twins being born 3 1/2 months too soon.”

“I really came here today to thank some of the doctors. I remember all of them,” Mrs. Bissell added.

Dr. Picarillo said “the caring of the front-line staff” has been the one constant during the unit’s 40-year history.

“The amount of time they spend with the families, comforting them, encouraging them, empowering them. That’s what hasn’t changed,” he said.

Dr. Picarillo noted that infants brought to the unit are living longer than ever.

“In 1974, typically under 28 weeks wouldn’t survive at all. Now, we routinely save babies with 23 weeks,” he said.

Triplets Jameson, Payton and Callie Kaska of Northbridge are now 3 years old, said their mother, Lindsay. Their earliest days were “an emotional roller-coaster ride, living day to day,” Mrs. Kaska said. Now, the kids “are amazing. They’re right on target. They’re healthy,” she said.

Many families and staff reconnected on Saturday. Nurse Christina Evans was especially proud of Edward Parker Gagne, 4, of Holden.

“This little guy was one of my first babies I cared for,” said Ms. Evans, who has worked in the unit for 14 years. “To see him where he is today brings tears to my eyes.”

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Eric’s Team Hoyt Running Chair

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Eric is so comfortable and happy in his new Hoyt Running Chair! Eric would not have his new running chair without the help of family, friends and community. We would like to take a moment to thank all those who helped make this possible.

Special thanks to:

Thanks to all those who made donations via Ainsely’s Angels:

  • ANONYMOUS X3
  • *Mystery* Super Fan
  • The Maguire Doggies
  • Brooklyn Vance
  • Wendy, Marika & Tanner
  • St. Mary’s Parish
  • Joanie Edson and family
  • Nancy, Kyle & Meghan Treem
  • Edgren-Fortin Family
  • Susan Novak
  • Sandra Arix Kazanjian
  • Gilgallons
  • Maureen Bonica
  • The Ward Family
  • Michelle, Jimmy & Ryan
  • Jim Murphy
  • Rita Haga
  • Cousin Kari
  • Dawna Price
  • Pam and Jack Kates
  • Lori, Rick, Rider and Macie Muhr
  • Houle family
  • The Romaniec Family
  • Pat Paradis
  • Jaye Zawada
  • Seidel/Peters Family
  • The Langevin Family
  • Susan Rohl
  • Robert Ciavardone
  • Debbie and Stephen Maguire
  • The Dagle Family
  • Marianne and Jen
  • The Griffin Family
  • Paula Montuori
  • Bob and Donna Vollono
  • Larry and Pat Folino
  • Marianne Rososky
  • Pat & Faye Nolan
  • Dick and Joyce LaChappelle
  • Louis Shropshire
  • Gary & Phyllis
  • The Colluras
  • The Coz Family
  • Joan Winterkorn

Grafton News Transitions to New Ownership

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The Grafton News, a fixture in the Grafton community for the last 53 years, recently transitioned to new ownership.

Founder Charles N. Bolack has sold his interest in the weekly newspaper and its website to editor and publisher Donald E. Clark, graphic designer Wendy L. Watkins and website developer Cynthia M. Bissell, all residents of Grafton.

Bolack will continue to write “Up and Down the Highways,” the weekly column he has penned since 1958 when the newspaper was founded. He will also continue to be listed as “publisher emeritus” in the newspaper’s masthead.

Clark was named editor of the Grafton News in 2003 and publisher in January 2011. He started with the newspaper in 2002. He has been involved in journalism, newspapers, publishing, and graphic design for many years. Clark holds an associate’s degree from Worcester Junior College and a bachelor of arts in English from Worcester State College (now University).

Watkins has been the newspaper’s graphic designer for the past four years. Born in Montreal, she has a degree in commercial art from Dawson College. She was formerly an art director for Phillips-Magnavox in Canada

Bissell started www.thegraftonnews.com, the online version of the Grafton News, in 2009. A registered nurse, she began creating web sites professionally in 1998 and has received several awards and citations for her work on the development of specialized medical and disability-related Internet resources.

“Charlie started the Grafton News as a way to help foster the civic, cultural and economic life of the area, just as it says on our masthead,” said Clark. “Although we may explore new ways to do it, there’s no reason we should change that philosophy.”

View article as it appeared in The Grafton News