Skip to content

UMass

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.”

View PDF

Share

Seizures and CP

Eric had his first seizure yesterday at school. As many as half of kids with cerebral palsy (CP) have seizure disorders. I was optimistic and hoping that we would avoid this complication with Eric. So, although it’s not all that surprising, it is disappointing. I got a call from the school around noon-time that Eric had seizure activity that lasted about 3 minutes. He also turned blue and stopped breathing for several seconds; common with a seizure, but still very scary.

He was taken to UMass Worcester via ambulance where they started an IV and did a bunch of lab work. Once in the ER, Eric fell asleep, which is unusual for Eric, but again common after a seizure. The doctor also ordered a CAT scan. We ended up spending 7 hours in the ER, most of that time was just waiting to have the CAT scan. Every time Eric would get to the top of the list, a trauma case would bump him. Finally, his nurse decided to take him upstairs to in-patient radiology for the scan. All things considered, Eric was on his best behavior at the hospital, but I knew there was no way he would stay still for a CAT scan. So, they gave him Versed IV for the scan.

His labs were all normal and the CAT scan showed enlargement of the ventricular system, which is Eric’s base-line, but no other abnormalities. So the plan is to follow-up with Eric’s pediatrician and see a neurologist. He will need to have an EEG (electroencephalogram) and probably start on seizure medication. It is possible that this was an isolated episode, although I’m not getting my hopes up, since seizures are so common for kids with CP. I’ve also read that sometimes puberty can bring on seizures for kids with neurological problems who were seizure-free before puberty. So, one more diagnosis to add to the list…

We finally got out of the ER at 9pm last night. I will keep Eric home from school today and watch him. Here are a couple of camera phone photos taken at the hospital.

Worried Dad
Worried Dad
Eric getting CAT scan
Eric getting CAT scan
Share