HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children has made an addition to its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for the first time in 15 years. The expansion is in response to north Alabama's growing health care needs.
“More young families moving to Huntsville, more people having babies in Huntsville, and just because of that more babies are going to need neonatal intensive care," explained Dr. Lee Morris, a neonatologist and medical director of the NICU.
The hospital has added ten new beds to its NICU, so it can now care for a total of 55 sick and premature babies at a time.
"We have been very, very full at times in our existing unit," Dr. Morris said. "There have been times when we’ve had to think about diverting babies away to other hospitals."
Ten new beds is significant, considering the NICU admits about 1,000 newborns here every year. Dr. Morris said it's possible they'll add more beds to the expanded space in the future.
"We take care of everything here, from tiny little one-pound babies to big full-term babies who are unexpectedly sick," he said.
This is the only Level III NICU in all of north Alabama.
"We have specialists here, we have surgery here, we have the ability to transport patients in," Dr. Morris said.
The existing NICU at the hospital is currently full, and at least six babies will be moved into the expanded portion starting next week.
Significant funding for the expansion was provided by the Huntsville Hospital Foundation donors through its Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund.
Chris and Amy George started the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund after their daughter died shortly after birth.
"We wanted to leave a legacy through her, and I walk in this unit and I see all this equipment and I think... we have," said Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund Co-founder Amy George.
The 2019 Swim For Melissa event helped pay for part of that expansion.
"We hoped to raise $200,000, which we had never raised through Swim for Melissa and we actually ended up raising even more than that. It's incredibly special for Chris and I to know that the proceeds from this years event is coming to this expansion," said George.
George says it's been inspiring to see the fund help provide new technology that didn't exists when her babies were born, like the Giraffe Isolette that helps control a baby's body temperature.
"One key piece of equipment that they wanted was a special bed called a giraffe bed. they didn't have any of those. Our daughters were not in those beds. Those beds were very expensive, more than $30,000," said George.
Amy says it couldn't happen without donations from the public and community partnerships.
"WHNT has played a huge role. They are one of the greatest friends that Melissa's Fund has ever had and that began because when Melissa was born and Ann Catherine was born I was a news anchor there and I was part of the WHNT family," said George.
The George's will always be part of our family at WHNT News 19, and they are forever a part of families whose babies got their start in the regional NICU.