Dr. Brenda LewisThe birthing center at Aultman Hospital is arguably the happiest place in the entire facility.
Cuddly, cute newborns enter the world. Parents and relatives share tender moments with babies and one another. Congratulatory handshakes and hugs are the norm.
However, every delivery is not a postcard moment.
Babies born prematurely, or to narcotics-addicted mothers or with some other health problems, often are whisked straight to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the only Level III NICU in the county. More than 400 babies a year born at Aultman and in other hospitals spend anywhere from one day to four months in the unit.
“You see a lot of tragedy, but most babies end up going home,” said Dr. Brenda Lewis, one of the neonatologists at the Aultman NICU. “It’s really a team approach.”
Neonatologists, nurses and nurse practitioners work with respiratory therapists and nutritionists in the 25 private patient rooms designed to provide a soothing setting.
The 52-year-old Lewis, who lives in North Canton, joined the Aultman staff in 2001. She also had happened to have two prematurely delivered babies of her own.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else in medicine,” she said.
The theme of the NICU is family-centered care. Early interaction between babies and parents is promoted as a means to help shorten a baby’s length of stay. Parents and family are encouraged to nurture, care for and hold their babies, even as they are being treated and cared for by nurses and doctors.
Lewis said the staff gets to know the families, not only the babies.
“You’re not only a doctor, you’re a shoulder to cry on … their emotional support,” she said.