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New NICU amazes expecting parents

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Mary Beth Ours, a nurse practioner, shows how to use one of the incubators in Winchester Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit during an open house at the hospital’s new North Tower on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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Annette San Pietro, center, guides a group of visitors through an operating room for cesarean births in the labor and delivery unit during an open house Saturday at the Winchester Medical Center's campus expansion project of the new North Tower. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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A baby warmer sits next to a bed in one of the several labor/delivery/recovery rooms in the labor and delivery unit at the Winchester Medical Center. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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Colorful artwork of babies and nature subjects decorate the rooms and halls of Winchester Medical Center's labor and delivery unit.

Winchester hospital shows off unit in North Tower

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Winchester Medical Center's new North Tower attracted dozens of people Saturday to see where the hospital soon will deliver babies and give care to the tiniest patients.

Hospital representatives and staff led area residents on tours of the sites for the neonatal intensive care unit and labor and delivery, both of which plan to move from their current locations to the tower Jan. 31. The critical care unit relocated to the North Tower in mid December. The tower also includes added conference room space for health-care related classes.

Sally Bennett and John LeMarr are expecting a child in March and expressed excitement at giving birth in the new labor and delivery section of the North Tower.

"It's amazing," Bennett said. "Labor and delivery's almost like a hotel."

The layout of the larger rooms allows a person to see what takes place after delivery whereas the current area does not, she said.

"They've really focused these rooms on where you can really see the baby at all times while you're in labor and delivery," she said.

"I think it's improved from years ago," Lemarr added.

Part of the improvements come as a result of studies into the improved care for infants in NICU. The new NICU center features individual rooms for each infant. Also the unit has three rooms for twins and one for triplets. The NICU also features special acoustic tile designed to dampen the noise which studies show can hinder development in those infrants under such care, according to Janet Nordling, director of the Women and Children's Services and WMC.

Kacie and Kyle Kramerage pushed 2-month-old Kolton through the hall. Kolton, born Nov. 11 at 5 pounds, spent six days in NICU, his mother said. Both parents expressed awe at the new NICU and labor and delivery areas. Kyle Kramerage, however, said that in some ways the tighter space of the current NICU "was more like a family."

But no matter what size the facilities, the parents lauded the nurses who helped them through their stay.

"Those NICU nurses, they are like angels," Kacie Kramerage said.

Tamara Spriggs works as a doctor at Valley Health's Round Hill Family Practice in Loudoun County.

"It's just beautiful," Spriggs said. "It's spacious. I think it's going to make patients very happy."

Spriggs delivered both her sons, 3-year-old Xavier and 5-month-old Gabriel, in the current labor and delivery area of WMC.

"Oh boy, if I got to deliver there it would have been stellar," Spriggs said. "I mean, over at the main hospital it's nice as it is. I've seen other places that aren't nearly as well. But upstairs, it's phenomenal.

Xavier spent time in the current neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital. The NICU is scheduled for relocation to its expanded section in the North Tower on Jan. 31.

"It's very impressive," said Spriggs' husband, Curtis. "Everything. The size. It's nicer. It's brighter. There's so much light everywhere."

Mr. Spriggs also noted the spaciousness of the NICU rooms which would help parents and families going through that kind of care.

"It's already uncomfortable," Mr. Spriggs said. "No one wants to be there with so many other families right in your face. You had to wait to go into the scrub rooms. You were kind of cramped together."

Families have new areas to wait.

"The family waiting rooms themselves are just spacious and inviting as opposed to really just small and closed in," Mrs. Spriggs said.

"If you think about you have people who are there who, in a situation like ours, people are really worried and nervous about months and months of time spending in there, you really don't want to mix the two if you can help it," Mr. Spriggs said. "Some people are laughing and having a good time and some people are in a really bad situation so it's really nice to have a place where you have some space and some privacy ... They thought of a lot of stuff here."

With the added space and amenities, such as another gift shop and information desks, come the need for volunteers. Becky Armstrong, president of the Ladies' Auxilliary at the hospital, said the need for volunteers is greater now with the North Tower opening.

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