Victoria Katherine Harron came into this world last Aug. 24, weighing less than 25 ounces and barely fitting in her mother’s hand. She took her first out-of-the-womb breath after an emergency C-section at Inova Alexandria Hospital. Immediately after delivery, Victoria was transferred to the hospital’s Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Dana and Ashley Harron delivered their tiny girl at 26 weeks gestation. Six months later, in February, Dana says her healthy daughter is 12 pounds strong, quick to giggle and starting to wrap her chubby fingers around anything within reach. “I think back to the first time I saw Victoria; she was so tiny and fragile. We were lucky to deliver at Inova Alexandria Hospital. The NICU doctors and nurses saved our daughter’s life.”
“The NICU doctors and nurses saved our daughter’s life.” -Dana Harron
The Harrons delivered Victoria after a routine checkup took an unexpected turn. “The doctors found no measurable amniotic fluid in my uterus — although there wasn’t any medical explanation. Everything else was fine,” Dana says.
Hoping to reverse the situation, Dana’s doctors admitted her to the hospital, pumped her with fluid through an intravenous (IV) line and secured a fetal heart monitor on her belly to watch over Victoria. “A few times during the night, Victoria’s heartbeat slowed down. The decision was made to have an emergency C-section,” Dana recalls.
As an infant, she spent 88 days in the NICU
As Dana describes Victoria’s 88-day stay in the Inova Alexandria NICU, she focuses on the “above-and-beyond” compassionate care from NICU team members and the unit’s advanced technology.
Providing a mix of high- and low-tech care is precisely the goal of the unit, points out Lisa Goldberg, DO, Medical Director. “We have the heart of a community hospital, with strong ties to our families,” she says. “At the same time, we’re a Level 3 NICU, which means we have the experience, skill, and state-of-the-art technology to support delivery of the smallest infant. It’s something you don’t often find in a community setting — and I think this rare combination helps our babies thrive.”
24/7 access to the expert NICU team
Inova Alexandria’s commitment to patients means 24/7 access to the Inova Alexandria NICU team, explains Lesley A. Chauncey, RN, Clinical Director of the NICU. That’s in addition to scheduled updates.
Every day begins with Mom and Dad joining the NICU multidisciplinary team at their baby’s bedside. The team includes neonatologists and RNs as well as a respiratory therapist, dietician, social worker, pharmacist, physical therapist, speech therapist and lactation consultant.
“We discuss the baby’s progress and what we might want to do differently,” Chauncey says. “Then we review everything again — this time in less medical terms so Mom and Dad understand our plan of care and have time to ask questions.”
It was during these morning sessions that Dana and Ashley grew acquainted with Victoria’s team. “Seeing how compassionate and caring these people are really made a difference. Just having them there, all day, every day, kept us as calm as possible during an unbelievably stressful time,” Dana explains.
NICU care advances: high-tech ultrasound and incubators
Working silently in Inova Alexandria’s NICU is the most advanced technology available to care for premature or special needs newborns and their unique developmental needs. The most recent state-of-the-art advancement is an ultrasound machine to help insert an IV line. In addition, each NICU baby here grows, sleeps and thrives in their own Giraffe OmniBed Carestation, a technologically advanced incubator with radiant warmers and healing microenvironments.
All these technological advancements often escaped Dana and Ashley, since they were solely focused on Victoria’s daily progress. “It was a difficult time, to say the least, but the NICU team was so attuned to our needs and feelings,” Dana says. “It was such a gift to have access to everyone at any given moment.”
Of course, the NICU team’s greatest gift to the Harron family is Victoria — who’s at home now, loved and thriving.
5 services to consider when choosing a hospital for your baby’s delivery
First there’s the rush of joy that comes with those two magic words — you’re pregnant! Next it’s time to choose the hospital where you will deliver. Here are several services that you want access to, according to Lisa Goldberg, DO, Medical Director, Inova Alexandria Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Antenatal Testing. This gives parents access to maternal-fetal medicine specialists skilled in high-risk pregnancies and genetic counseling. At the Inova Brock Family Antenatal Testing Center, experts work closely with prospective parents, pregnant women and their obstetricians.
On-Site Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Of the nearly 4 million babies born annually in the United States, 9.6 percent are delivered preterm. With a level 3 designation, Inova Alexandria’s NICU staff can care for very small or very sick newborn babies 24/7.
Board-Certified Pediatricians. It’s critical to have pediatric experts on-site in case a health issue arises. At Inova Alexandria, NICU providers serve as an in-house pediatric team if your baby’s pediatrician doesn’t see patients there.
Lactation Consultants. On-site board-certified lactation consultants provide inpatient support for breastfeeding moms. We are internationally recognized as a Baby-Friendly birth facility by Baby-Friendly USA Inc., which means the hospital maintains policies and practices that help parents create the best possible environment for successful breastfeeding.
Family Education Classes. Inova offers a wide variety of classes for new parents, from general childbirth preparation to baby care to specialty classes for siblings or grandparents. Support groups can also be beneficial after baby arrives.