Thursday, July 2, 2015 12:00 AM

Making a Big Difference for Tiny Hearts

What started as a normal afternoon check-up ended in a Cinco de Mayo to remember for new mother Reyna Donate as she gave birth to daughter Camila Fernandez at Clovis Community Medical Center nine weeks early.

Little did Donate know she was already in labor at her check-up due to an infection. “It was a scary experience, having a premature baby, and it’s been an on-going adjustment as Camila has had more health problems,” Donate said.

At just 2 lbs. 2 oz., baby Camila was transferred to the Level 3 NICU at Community Regional Medical Center hours after birth. A little over a month later, Fernandez had heart surgery at Stanford Medical Center to repair her PDA ligation – where abnormal blood flow occurs between two of the major arteries connected to the heart, increasing blood pressure in the lung’s arteries. Donate said in comparing the two NICUs, she can see the difference donor support has made here in Fresno. “It’s so luxurious here compared to Stanford.”

While it was an anxious time having her daughter go into surgery, Donate said she took comfort from a doctor friend’s advice: “She helped me by saying, ‘When you see all the IVs and wires going to your daughter just think, those things are keeping her alive. And hearing that, I was able to reframe what I was thinking – it made it easier.”

At some point, most premature babies like Camila, born or transferred to Community Regional, are placed in a radiant bed warmer to transport them back and forth from surgery and so they are easily accessible to medical staff says Diana Cormier, R.N., NICU Nursing Specialty Expert at Community Regional.

There is just one problem – there are not enough to circulate around the NICU. 

“Right now, we are having to move babies around when we shouldn’t have to,” Donna McCloudy, Community Regional’s director of NICU and pediatrics, said. Over 1,000 babies are treated at Community Regional each year, almost 100 per month and the numbers keep growing McCloudy says.

Thanks to donations made to the NICU, three bed warmers were able to be purchased along with a neonate transport ventilator and replacement monitors – totaling about $190,000.

“It’s amazing here,” says Donate about Regional’s NICU. “Coming back from Stanford I kept saying I wanted to come back home – I called this place home and I wanted to be back where it is quiet and warm and inviting.”

Just two weeks after surgery, Fernandez is doing well and gaining weight fast – she is now 4 lbs. and drinking slowly from a bottle – reaching a milestone.

Donate says she cannot thank the donors enough for their generosity, no matter how big or small, for not only helping her little girl, but others like her. “I am finding that these tiny babies are very, very strong.”

By Ashlie Day and Erin Kennedy