Two groups join forces to soothe patients' families

Newly renovated family room in the NyICU at St. Joseph's.The Starlight Children’s Foundation Arizona has a long history of transforming hospital rooms into colorful, inviting spaces that soothe young patients and their families. Phoenix Suns Charities is a powerful player in improving the quality of life in our community. Individually, the groups do amazing work for our community, but recently they came together to create a magical, healing space in the hospital’s Nursery Intensive Care Unit.

The two groups, both previous supporters of St. Joseph’s, joined forces to remake the Parent Room in St. Joseph’s NyICU. The Starlight Children’s Foundation Arizona applied for the 2012 Phoenix Suns Charities Playmaker Award, which was granted for the benefit of St. Joseph’s.

“Every year we give to a community group a $100,000 Playmaker Award,” says Robin Milne, executive director of Phoenix Suns Charities. “This is our signature grant, and we want the recipient to truly embody what we care about – taking care of children and their families. Awarding this grant to Starlight and St. Joseph’s was really a no-brainer.”

Starlight Children’s Foundation Regional Director Jo Ann Yeo has a close personal connection with the Parent Room – her now 24-year-old son was thought to be at end of life in the St. Joseph’s NyICU. Jo Ann and her family spent time with their infant son in the Parent Room. On a recent visit to St. Joseph’s, she was surprised that it looked almost exactly as it did all those years before.

“We help seriously ill kids and the whole family unit,” Yeo said. “Having a baby hospitalized can be frightening, confusing, overwhelming for parents and siblings. Renovation of the Parent Room will support and soothe the emotional health of infants and families being served.”

The room is used by parents when their baby is critically ill and they need to be close by and spend the night. Sadly, it is used when a child passes away. It is a quiet room where parents can hold their infant and spend the last few moments of their child’s life together. The room also is used by parents who will be taking a baby home on medical equipment and need to familiarize themselves with how the equipment operates.

“A night in the room with the equipment is like a trial run for parents,” says Sharon Glanville, executive director of Women’s and Children’s Services. “They can learn how to operate the equipment in a safe environment with nursing staff on duty for backup.”

Caralee Lubbering knows just how valuable the space is. During her pregnancy, Lubbering was diagnosed with advanced twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a rare and dangerous condition in which the smaller of identical twins does not get enough blood while the larger twin becomes overloaded with too much blood. A surgery to fix the disease was unsuccessful and was followed by three amniotic reductions to drain excessive fluid and strict 23-hour-per-day bed rest. On March 30, 2011, Caralee delivered Luke and Logan via emergency c-section at just 28 weeks gestation.

Luke weighed 2 lbs., 15 oz., and Logan just 10.9 oz., so tiny that medical equipment was too big to fit. Caralee was able to spend five hours with Logan before he passed away. Luke spent 66 days in the NyICU before going home.

“When you’re pregnant, you try not to think of the scary moments,” Lubbering says. “But to have a space like this within the hospital where you can relax and know that everyone is so good at their job that you don’t have to worry is such a relief. When you’re experiencing something like this, it’s almost as if you’re leading a double life – you still have to run errands and have your life outside of the hospital, so to come back to a room like this that really feels like home is just so valuable.”

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