By Gina Clear
Source: The News-Enterprise
In February, Danielle and Jon VanderMolen welcomed twins, daughter Parker and son Ellis, to their family at Hardin Memorial Hospital. Less than 24 hours later, the family would be divided when Parker, who never had been held by her mother, was taken to Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville while mom and Ellis stayed behind. Parker, who had underdeveloped lungs and jaundice, needed care she was not able to receive at Hardin Memorial Hospital.
But with a check Thursday from WHAS Crusade for Children, the hospital is one step closer to becoming a Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit so it can service families like the VanderMolens.
“It would have benefited us tremendously,” Danielle said if HMH would have had the NICU in February. “It would have been a God-send to have it all here.”
If the hospital had the unit at the time of the twins birth, Jon wouldn’t have had to spend time driving back and forth to Louisville, leaving at 7 a.m. and returning at 4 or 5 p.m. to HMH to see Danielle and Ellis.
The family also wouldn’t have experienced guilt from the separation — Jon from his wife who had a Cesarean section for the twins’ birth and his new baby boy and Danielle from not being able to hold her daughter.
“I was scared to death that she wouldn’t know me,” she said. “It was very stressful. It was hard for me, even though I knew she needed it. At least her dad was there with her. I cried, but what could you do?”
It took two weeks before Danielle finally was able to hold her baby girl on Valentine’s Day, one day before the child returned to HMH for continued care.
The family was able to take Ellis home on Feb. 17, but had to wait until Feb. 21 before they were able to take Parker home to complete their family.
For the VanderMolens and many more families like them, Crusade CEO Dawn Lee said the NICU project had “no contest” when it came to awarding more than $300,000, the largest single award and the third largest amount of all 191 Crusade grant recipients this year, to the hospital.
“Out of 12 ministers (on the board), all 12 were very excited about the opportunity to be part of something going on outside of Louisville,” she said. “So often, we want people to realize, it’s not just Louisville that benefits from the Crusade.”
The grants will pay $76,000 for NICU equipment and $270,000 in NICU/BirthPlace renovations. Lee said the ministers also take into consideration from where the Crusade donations derive — Hardin County having raised $168,600.19 this year through various fire departments.
“I am thrilled that firefighters are here today, because Hardin County always does an outstanding job collecting for the Crusade,” she said. “So it’s very important for us that you know that money that’s collected here in Hardin County comes back to help children in this region. Every cent that’s collected by the Crusade goes back into the grant.”
The investment will pay for renovations to the BirthPlace waiting room and formula room and also pay for equipment such as an LED phototherapy system to treat jaundice, equipment used in infant resuscitation, a bed that is both an incubator and radiant warmer, and a sterile tubing welder, which allows blood to be preserved in smaller units when a newborn needs a transfusion.
Hospital President and CEO Dennis Johnson said those tools and services are necessary, with the addition in September of two neonatologists, to help the ninth-busiest delivery room in the state with more than 1,600 births, fulfill its strategic vision. HMH plans to invest in facilities, recruit first-in-class physicians and provide the highest level of care to the more than 400,000 people HMH serves throughout its 10-county region.
“Adding this service is a very important part of what we do,” Johnson said.
In fulfilling a promise to herself, Sharon Wright, vice president and chief nursing officer, said after her premature twin sons were born, she would “never forget my journey with Crusade.”
Wright, who also was separated from her sons after birth so they could receive care at Kosair, called the grant “divine.”
“We’re honored that Crusade would dedicate this amount of money to our smallest patients,” she said.
With the hospital and Crusades inception being the same year in 1954, Hardin Memorial Hospital Foundation chairman Joe Prather said the uniting of the two organizations with this addition was meant to be.
In May, the hospital unveiled a business plan, which includes two renovation phases costing about $606,156, at the hospital’s board of trustees meeting. The total cost of the project is estimated at $1,010,870.
Tracee Troutt, chief development officer for the hospital, said at the meeting the foundation pledged $15,000.
Since 2002, the Crusade has donated $230,000 to the hospital.
“Our hope is more Parkers will be able to stay here at home,” Lee said.