Birth is usually a wonderful and healthy event, but unfortunately, it can sometimes be complicated by a period of reduced oxygen supply to the brain. When a baby is deprived of oxygen at birth, the consequences may last a lifetime. This may lead to long-term developmental delays, such a cerebral palsy, vision impairments, hearing problems or learning disabilities. Traditionally, very little could be done after a baby had suffered oxygen deprivation. Doctors would simply wait and hope for the best, as there was no known treatment.
Medical research and clinical trials have demonstrated the benefits of a medical therapy known as Therapeutic Hypothermia (total body cooling). Using this therapy, doctors are able to reduce the likelihood and severity of long-term impairments in some infants who suffer from oxygen deprivation at birth. Infants are placed on a special blanket that is chilled with tubes of cold water running through it. This blanket reduces the baby’s body temerature from 98 to 91 degrees, and that is continued for 72 hours. By lowering the body’s temperature, the cooling blanket reduces swelling around the brain and prevents the body from attempting reparative actions that might ultimately cause greater damage.
Woman’s has been offering total body cooling to infants for several years, but will now have updated and much more sophisticated equipment to continue performing the technique, thanks to a generous donation from the John and Jan Valluzzo family. This gift is far reaching and impacts more than just infants born at Woman’s. Some infants with this critical condition are transported from referral hospitals in the region by Woman’s Neonatal Transport team. The cooling process with specialized equipment begins immediately upon receiving care from our team in the field and will continue with our new equipment upon admission to the NICU. The Valluzzo family has been longtime supporters of Woman’s, but their own experience with the NICU inspired them to become transformational donors.
“Jan and I both have a very special place in our hearts for Woman’s Hospital. It has touched our lives with blessings from birth care to infant care,” John says. “Meeting the needs of Woman’s with the cooling blanket program was a natural and easy decision.”
For more information about giving opportunities and volunteering, click here.