Nurturing Premature & Ill Babies to Health at Sky Ridge
Born Weighing just Three Pounds, this is Lilly's Story
When Lilly McFarland was born at just 6 ½ months, she weighed in at a scant three pounds, 11 ounces. She spent her first two months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Sky Ridge Medical Center, where she triumphed through the challenges that follow many premature births: ventilation, feeding tubes, treatment for infections, allergies, sleep apnea and more. A week after her birth, her father had to return to his job in New Mexico, leaving her mother, Colombian born Monica McFarland, alone in Denver with their newborn.
Joe Toney, MD, Medical Director of the NICU at Sky Ridge, looks on as Monica McFarland proudly admires her babygirl, Lilly.
With no other family in the U.S. to help, Monica might have felt quite alone during the two months of keeping watch over tiny Lilly. "But Dr. Toney and the entire NICU team were amazing," Monica recalls. "They were so concerned about me, explaining everything to me, keeping me company, and helping me with everything. They became like family to me," she says. "Every single one of them—they are little angels working for kids in that department."
Of the more than 3000 infants born at Sky Ridge each year, about 160 to 180 are premature or ill babies who require the extra care provided by the NICU. Designated a level IIIA unit, the department can care for babies as tiny as 1000 grams and born as early as 28 weeks. It provides a range of services including ventilation for babies whose lungs are too undeveloped to function at birth.
Caring for Parents as Well as Babies
According to Joe Toney, MD, Medical Director of the NICU at Sky Ridge, “We not only care for babies, but we take really good care of their families. We get to know every family very well, and the hospital makes a big impact on their lives. The compassion and dedication of our team, and comfortable atmosphere for families, sets us apart from centers that have larger volumes of patients.” While their babies convalesce, families may stay in the NICU for days at a time, if they wish.
Lilly was released from the NICU January 17, and two weeks later, Monica and Lilly moved to Albuquerque to rejoin her father. Dr. Toney helped Monica locate a local pediatrician who could follow up with Lilly’s special needs, and Monica still keeps in touch with him and the Sky Ridge team.
"Taking care of premature babies like Lilly has evolved greatly over the past 20 years," says Dr. Toney. "One of the biggest changes has been including the family as part of the healthcare team. At Sky Ridge, we embrace and encourage their involvement as the center of their baby’s life."
Lilly could not have been introduced into the world around a better group of people than the nursing staff in the Sky Ridge NICU...the nurses who took care of her not only were knowledgeable, attentive and caring, but they also took time to get to know my wife. I can only hope the rest of her life will be as blessed to be around such amazing people as the employees within this unit.