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As published in the UConn Advance, March 12, 2007.

New Resource Room for Families of Newborns in Intensive Care

By Maureen McGuire

From left, Diana, Caroline, and Eric Baim at the dedication of the Family Resource Room in the Health Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where Caroline started her life.

From left, Diana, Caroline, and Eric Baim at the dedication of the Family Resource Room in the Health Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where Caroline started her life. Her parents now assist families of babies in the NICU, through an initiative with the March of Dimes.

Photo by Janine Gelineau

Parents of babies who started their lives in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the John Dempsey Hospital joined officials from the March of Dimes and the Health Center this week to dedicate a new resource room for the parents, siblings, and other family members of babies in the NICU.

“As a former NICU mom, I know how important it is to have a quiet, comfortable place, away from the beeping of the unit, where you can feel at home,” said Chris Pellegrini of East Windsor, whose twin three-year-olds started their lives in the NICU.

The new Family Resource Room is located within the NICU and is the result of the Health Center’s recent collaboration with the March of Dimes.

Last spring, the March of Dimes selected the Health Center for its first NICU Family Support Project in Connecticut, as part of a national campaign to enhance resources and support to families of babies who are born prematurely.

The creation of the Family Resource Room is one of many projects the March of Dimes has initiated at the Health Center, along with a variety of support activities for parents and siblings, and dissemination of new educational materials for parents and family members.

In Connecticut, the March of Dimes Family Support Project is funded by the NewAlliance Foundation.

“We are very proud to be part of this initiative to help parents during a difficult, highly emotional time,” said Kim Healey of the NewAlliance Foundation, during the dedication.

For the Family Resource Room, with support from the Health Center, the March of Dimes refurbished a room just across the hall from the intensive care nursery.

It is complete with comfortable furniture, a microwave oven, a refrigerator, TV and DVD player, laptop computer, books for young siblings, and more. Everything in the room was made possible by in-kind gifts and donations.

“This is a special place where parents can take a deep breath, check their e-mail, prepare a meal, or just relax and compose their thoughts for a few moments,” says Jeanne Lattanzio, the family support specialist who coordinates the March of Dimes program at the Health Center.

Lattanzio says parents spend as much time as they possibly can by their babies’ bedsides.

“Some parents don’t even like to go one floor up to the cafeteria,” she says.

“They want to be with the baby at all times. That’s why we are so pleased to have a place just for them – and it’s only steps away from the nursery.”

The NICU at the Health Center, now in its 31st year, provides care for more than 500 babies every year.

It has long served as the newborn regional referral center for northern Connecticut.

Babies are transported to UConn not only from all over Connecticut, but also from surrounding states.

Providing support for families is a top priority for NICU staff, and there are special rooms where parents can sleep in the unit, in addition to the new Family Resource Room.