Big Gifts Help Tiny Babies

Neonatologist Ann Critz cares for the smallest, most vulnerable patients in Emory's NICU.
Kay Hinton

Ann Critz has cared for thousands of babies in more than thirty years at Emory. As a neonatologist, she is an expert in caring for ill newborns, particularly the tiny infants born prematurely. And as medical director of nurseries and chief of pediatrics, she is the driving force behind Emory University Hospital Midtown’s state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Gifts from the Emory University Hospital Midtown Auxiliary and the Mary Allen Lindsey Branan Foundation recently enabled the hospital to expand the unit. The NICU is designated a level-III nursery, where physicians and staff can treat almost any medical or surgical newborn problems. Newborns with health needs from surrounding communities and North Georgia are transferred to the unit as part of the Emory Perinatal Center.

In addition, the unit serves a particularly high-risk group of expectant mothers: those born with structural heart defects or other serious heart problems. These women often give birth prematurely, sometimes in the second trimester. Partnering with physicians at the Emory Congenital Heart Center, NICU physicians and staff care for these women throughout their pregnancies and deliveries.

Before the NICU expansion, the number of newborns in need of critical care sometimes exceeded the number of available beds, and babies would be transferred to other area hospitals.

In May 2012, a new wing opened in the unit with three additional NICU beds. Windows were added, and space was created to make “kangaroo care”—in which the mother holds the infant skin-to-skin—and bedside breast pumping easier. The surgical suites were enlarged to enable families to be present while a baby undergoes surgery.

“I want to be remembered by mothers,” Critz says, “and I want my legacy to be individual babies.”

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