Prematurity Awareness Month Recognizes Neonatal Medical Team

(November 28, 2016) – Tara Hart will never forget the most valuable piece of advice she got when her premature twin boys were fighting for their lives in the Level III neonatal intensive care nursery (NICN) at the Dwaine & Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah at Memorial Health.

“Dr. [Bradley] Buckler told me, ‘Your babies are sitting on the edge of a cliff,’” she recalls. “‘There will be days when they plummet off the cliff and we will pull them back up. Just remember, though, that when we pull them back up, they are still on the edge of the cliff.’”

Buckler, a MEDNAX-affiliated neonatologist and director of Memorial’s NICN, sees the same scenario play out every day. Memorial’s NICN’s status as Level III unit means that Buckler and his team care for the most critically ill newborns in the region.

Hart’s babies, Layne and Camden, went home two months after they were born. Today, they are active 2-year-olds who show no developmental delays. “They are so smart, so funny, and so fun,” she says.

November is Prematurity Awareness Month, and Hart and other parents whose babies spent time in Memorial’s NICN recognize the difference the physicians, nurses, and other caregivers made in their lives.

“They’re not only saving babies’ lives, they’re there to comfort parents,” Hart says. “It takes a special person to work in the NICN.”

While not all premature infants experience complications, those born early are at greater risk of developing significant medical problems. The most common respiratory complication is Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or RDS, which the Hart babies suffered.

RDS is caused by a deficiency of surfactant in the lungs. Surfactant reduces surface tension in the lungs of infants. Without enough surfactant, the baby experiences serious difficulty breathing. Unless it is treated properly, RDS can result in acute complications, long-term consequences, and even death.

In Memorial’s Level III NICN, the staff uses advanced techniques and medications to treat RDS and other conditions caused by premature birth. Surfactant replacement therapy has helped decrease the mortality rate for premature infants in the U.S. by nearly 25 percent since the early 1990s.

MEDNAX, Inc. is a national health solutions partner comprised of the nation's leading providers of physician services. Physicians and advanced practitioners practicing as part of MEDNAX are reshaping the delivery of care within their specialties and subspecialties, using evidence-based tools, continuous quality initiatives, clinical research and telemedicine to enhance patient outcomes and provide high-quality, cost-effective care. The company was founded in 1979, and today, through its affiliated professional corporations, MEDNAX provides services through a network of more than 3,600 physicians in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. In addition to its national physician network, MEDNAX provides services to healthcare facilities and physicians in over 40 states through two complementary businesses, consisting of a revenue cycle management company and a consulting services company. Additional information is available at www.mednax.com

Memorial University Medical Center is a two-state healthcare organization serving a 35-county area in southeast Georgia and southern South Carolina. The system includes its flagship hospital, a 604-bed academic medical center; Memorial primary and specialty care physician networks; a major medical education program; business and industry services; and NurseOne, a 24-hour call center. You can follow us at facebook.com/memorialhealth, twitter.com/mymemorial, instagram.com/memorial_health, and youtube.com/memorialhealth.