By Candace Sipos -- email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- There's a picture of Tristen Daughtery on his crib in the back of the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Winchester Medical Center with an oxygen mask strapped to his tiny face.
At 13 days old, he looked to be all eyes.
Next to that picture, is one showing his perfectly formed foot fitting through his mother's wedding band. Tristen was born on Nov. 6, weighing 1 pound, 13 ounces.
He's the oldest baby in the unit, and he was the first to be wheeled into the brand-new facility on the second floor of the North Tower on Tuesday morning. Instead of being surrounded by over a dozen other babies in one ward-style room, Tristen has his own quiet, dark room now, which medical officials, armed with research, believe simulates a more womb-like experience for fostering growth.
Kimberly Ruffalo, a registered nurse, fed Tristen his dose of little more than an ounce of formula while discussing his progress.
"He had a big move today," she said, laughing. "He's having a pretty good day. He's a little sleepy."
Thanks to new technology on many of the same monitors from the previous space, Ruffalo watched the vital signs of the two other babies in her care from the device in Tristen's room.
Connie Orbach, also a registered nurse, agreed with Ruffalo on the perks of the new 30-bed unit.
"All around, it's just better for the babies," she said, adding that there is now more room for families to be with the newest member of the clan in a quieter environment.
Across the hall, Maria Klumpp held her newborn, Cristian Gabriel, who was born with the Strep B virus in his lungs. From Culpeper, Klumpp was going to head to the NICU at the University of Virginia, but all the beds were taken. She was only at the old unit at Winchester Medical Center for six days when she was moved to the new space, but she was not complaining.
"You always bumped into somebody," she said of the old unit. Now she's able to stay as long as she wants with her baby, but she couldn't stay overnight because of lack of space before.
"We outgrew our 12-bed unit the day we moved in," said Janet Nordling, director of women and children services at the hospital about the old facility. "Our average daily census was 15."
The previous labor and delivery unit was built to accommodate 1,800 deliveries, but there were at least 2,300, she said. The two units were part of a larger campus expansion project, which created much more space for the same employees to cover.
Nordling noted that there were no new hires for the two units.
"We outgrew our space a long time ago and now we built our building to accommodate the volume, but our volume won't necessarily go up," she said, which is how she explained the situation to the employees.
Neonatologist Dr. Eddie Lee noted the pros and cons of the move.
"Physically, it's going to be a more immense task," he said. "We're probably going to log a few miles."
But the goal is to improve care in order to get healthier babies home quicker, and that's what he believes the new unit will help to do.
With acoustic tiles, a quieter ventilation system and improved technology, the new unit will "simulate a womb environment," he said.