GULFPORT, MS - It nurtures and cares for the tiniest of babies so they can grow up to be happy, healthy, and ready to learn. Memorial Hospital at Gulfport is home to south Mississippi's only Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. About a month ago, it opened a brand new NICU - a beautiful, tranquil space for babies and their families.
One of those families, includes Rachel Moran and her baby boy, Braxton. Little Braxton was born six weeks early, but is doing remarkably well. Rachel credits Memorial's new state-of-the-art NICU for his success.
"Yeah, it is very nice!," she said. "We're just so lucky that we have a place like this where we live because other people might have to travel hours to get to other facilities. And knowing that we have a state of the art place in case your baby comes early, definitely made us feel great, being high risk the whole time."
"Well, we love taking care of babies," explained Neonatologist, Dr. David Kuhlmann. "We've been doing it on the coast since 1996."
Dr. Kuhlmann has been with Memorial Hospital for 13 years and for most of that time, his NICU was basically just one large room with about a dozen baby beds. But the hospital just invested $6 million to create a new wing for premature babies and their parents. It features 11 semi-private rooms with 23 NICU beds. He says it has made a huge difference.
"Individualizing each environment, light, noise. Allowing the mother to be there more often; the mother can actually now stay in the same room with the baby, and get them involved with the care - talking to the babies more, reading to the babies more, so it's really better for everybody."
That individualized care is so important for tiny babies as they continue to develop and heal. And the technology has improved tremendously, now allowing nurses to monitor babies at all times, even if they're checking on another baby in a different room. Remote alarms alert them of any trouble. They're able to relay that message directly to parents.
Rachel Moran said, "The fact that even when we're home we can call at anytime and they are just so nice to let you know exactly what's going on with him and being able to talk to the doctors at anytime. We really feel like we know what's going on and what to expect."
"(We) let them know we're taking care of their babies," said Dr. Kuhlmann. "We're giving them the best care we can and the best chance to grow up and be normal."
After a little more than a week in the NICU, baby Braxton was sent home with his family. He is doing very well.
Memorial Hospital's NICU cares for an average of 15 babies a day. That's largely due to the fact it serves all six southern counties of Mississippi. According to Dr. Kuhlmann, 45% of patients are transferred from other hospitals.