This year, Brave Beginnings mascot and cuddly bear extraordinaire, Doctor Clemens, made his way to all of our 2015 and 2016 grantee hospitals. Doc was able to check out the life-saving, state-of-the-art equipment that Brave Beginnings has funded for these hospitals, in addition to the little miracles that encompass their NICUs every day. Many of our grantees photographed Doc hanging around their hospitals, and some posted images to their various social media pages, accompanied by the hashtag #docbravebeginnings; please continue to find and tag us on Facebook and Twitter.

Here are some of the special stops Doc made during his travels this year:

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, CA, is a community-based nonprofit hospital providing comprehensive healthcare services to the East Bay’s diverse communities, and it is the largest birthing center in Northern California. The hospital received a grant from Brave Beginnings for the purchase of two Draeger Neonatal Ventilators. The Draeger ventilator is specifically designed and built for the complex needs of neonates, and is considered to be one of the safest for medically fragile babies.

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Aultman Hospital in Canton, OH. Brave Beginnings awarded the hospital a grant for Cardio Respiratory Monitors, replacing vital equipment that was over 20 years old. Aultman provides a substantial amount of the area’s total care for patients having no private or government health insurance and no significant level of income. The hospital also serves thousands of patients covered by public programs such as Medicaid, and payments from these federally funded programs do not always cover the total cost of service. In addition, Aultman serves a large number of Amish families and operates an Amish House on campus so that new mothers can stay and care for their infants.

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Batson Children’s Hospital – University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson, MS, is the only educational medical facility in the state devoted exclusively to the care and treatment of sick and injured children and adolescents. In addition, the state’s only Level IV academic tertiary newborn/neonatal facility devoted to the health and well-being of newborns can be found at UMMC. The newborn medicine program provides comprehensive care for babies delivered at UMMC, as well as for those transferred from other hospitals in Mississippi and neighboring states. Brave Beginnings awarded the hospital a grant towards the purchase of 22 NeoPIP Infant T-Piece Resuscitators. Batson’s NICU has 102 beds for infants with a daily census that fluctuates around 80. They had an immediate need for NeoPIP Infant T-Piece Resuscitators to be mounted at each bed to provide a much safer and evidence-based resuscitation for infants in respiratory failure, ultimately providing life-saving and best-of medical practice treatment for Mississippi’s neonates.

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Children’s National Health System in Washington, DC, is the region’s largest Children’s Health System, receiving admissions from over 60 referring special care or neonatal intensive care units in Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, and other states. Brave Beginnings awarded the hospital a grant for the purchase of 10 Giraffe Blue LED Spot Phototherapy Lights which aid in treating Hyperbilirubinemia, a common disorder in premature infants that occurs when too much bilirubin builds up in their blood.

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Dignity Health – St. Rose Dominican (St. Rose) in Henderson, NV, is the only not-for-profit, religiously sponsored hospital system in southern Nevada. Department of Health & Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has designated Henderson as a medically underserved population, and nearly half of the population served by the hospital has annual household income under $50,000; 22% of the population has household income under $25,000. St. Rose’s Siena Campus NICU is currently a level III facility, which provides care to the moderately ill newborn 20 weeks of gestation or older. The hospital is planning an expansion to their NICU of eight level II single rooms to accommodate parents and babies who are transitioning from higher level care. Brave Beginnings awarded the hospital a grant for the purchase of Cardiorespiratory Monitors with central monitoring which are required for a level II NICU. These changes will allow parents to stay with their babies, which will increase bonding and better prepare for discharge.

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Hardin Memorial Hospital (HMH) in Elizabethtown, KY, cares for the over 400,000 residents of 10 Central Kentucky counties. Most of their service area is rural, and HMH provides care to the insured, uninsured, under-insured and has also seen an increase in Medicaid patients. Brave Beginnings awarded the hospital a grant for the purchase of a Cardiorespiratory Monitor (to enable health care providers to monitor all babies at one time without having to move from room to room to check on what’s happening with each baby), along with a Vein Viewer (to help neonatologists access veins more accurately, leading to less discomfort for the baby).

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Huntsville Hospital in Huntsville, AL, provides quality health care for a service area of more than 1 million people, regardless of their ability to pay. Their Level III NICU is the only state-of-the-art center of care in that region, and they strives to provide the most updated, cutting edge equipment for their most vulnerable patients. Brave Beginnings awarded the hospital a grant for eight Y-Sensor VapoTherms. This equipment allows their RNICU to provide additional respiratory support to more patients. Y-sensor proximal flow monitors accurately and precisely measure flow and pressure changes, and provide patient-triggered ventilation in even the smallest of patients.

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Lafayette General Medical Center in Lafayette, LA. Brave Beginnings awarded the hospital a grant for three Perfusor Space PCA Infusion Pump Systems. The hospital is in the process of expanding their NICU Unit from 25 patients to 31 infants by adding 5 more bassinets, and their former pumps were 10-20 years old, outdated, and in some cases no longer functioning. Many of the families they serve in the area experience tremendous social and economic inequalities and disparities, including a lack of access to, or enrollment in, healthcare. The region also has a high rate of preterm births, so it is imperative that the hospital’s NICU be equipped with life-saving equipment for infants needing top quality care.

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Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Northridge, CA. Brave Beginnings awarded the hospital a grant for a Giraffe Omnibed. There had previously been a shortage of OmniBeds, which required the hospital to move babies who had been with them the longest to an older incubator in order to make room for an even sicker baby. This is not optimal for critical infant’s care. Northridge Hospital is a Level III designated NICU and has the expertise to treat the most complicated births from micro-preemies (born 12 or more weeks before the anticipated due date) to full-term sick infants. This designation is only given to hospitals that have the expertise to care for the most complicated births; at risk newborns including those as early as 23-28 weeks gestation, with birth weights of 500-1,000 grams (one to two lbs.) birth weight; and/or other neonates with serious illnesses who require critical or intermediate level care. The hospital serves numerous underserved and low-income patients in their NICU; in 2014, 69% of their NICU patients were Medi-Cal and Managed Medi-Cal.

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Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center (NHFMC) in Winston-Salem, NC, serves a diverse population of Forsyth County residents and a 20-county region surrounding the hospital. NHFMC’s NICU has one of the highest percentages of very low birth weight babies in the country, and is number one in North Carolina in this category. Brave Beginnings awarded the hospital a grant for the purchase of Cardiorespiratory Monitors; the machines provide an accurate assessment of heart rates during the critical first minutes of resuscitation.

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Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital in Columbia, SC, was the first children’s hospital in the state. Children’s Hospital primarily serves a 16-county Midlands Region of South Carolina, located in the middle of the state. However, children are referred here from every county in South Carolina. With more than 30 medical subspecialties, including neonatology, Children’s Hospital is a major regional pediatric referral center, caring for nearly 80,000 children each year. Brave Beginnings awarded the hospital a grant towards the purchase of an Airborne 750i Transport Incubator which is being used to provide a warm, safe environment for a baby up to 15 pounds. The incubator has a built-in ventilator to help babies breathe air or pure oxygen. It also has technology to monitor a baby’s heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, blood pressure and oxygen level. When minutes – even seconds – count, the availability of important medical equipment like this transport incubator makes all the difference for a preemie.

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Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital (SHCH) in Spokane, WA, is a dedicated pediatric hospital devoted to excellence in the delivery of family-centered health care to infants, children and adolescents. SHCH is the only comprehensive children’s hospital between Seattle and Minneapolis, serving a region stretching from eastern Washington through Montana and the Canadian border to Oregon; it is the only NICU in that region providing cardiac services. Brave Beginnings awarded the hospital a grant for the purchase of a Giraffe OmniBed. This equipment provides a nearly soundproof, temperature and humidity controlled environment that maximizes a preemie’s optimal physical and neurological growth and development.

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Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ, operates one of the largest and most advanced neonatal intensive care units in the country, including one of the most sophisticated maternity programs, delivering as many as 5,800 newborns annually. Brave Beginnings awarded the hospital a grant for the purchase of a Giraffe OmniBed. Fragile premature infants have unique temperature control issues that require care in a special neonatal hospital bed. The Giraffe OmniBed is a hybrid incubator/ open radiant warmer that combines both functions, allowing for a rapid and safe transition between the warmer mode and closed incubation, making the preemie’s experience as safe and seamless as possible.

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St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton, WI. The hospital’s service area covers more than 1000 square miles. Within an hour of Appleton are a number of smaller communities such as Waupaca and Wautoma, whose small hospitals are not equipped to care for premature infants. These infants are transported to St. Elizabeth’s to receive the care necessary for their survival. The hospital received a grant from Brave Beginnings for the purchase of a Giraffe OmniBed, replacing a unit that was purchased back in the 90s. This equipment will enable St. Elizabeth’s tiniest NICU patients to stay in a thermally controlled environment at all times without having to endure the stress of being transferred from bed to bed. Not only is this developmentally supportive environment critical to the health of the baby, it also provides their family members with the reassurance of knowing that their child will not have to undergo further unnecessary stress.

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Truman Medical Center (TMC) in Kansas City, MO, is the largest safety-net provider in the state, and the most comprehensive medical provider for uninsured and underserved residents of Kansas City and Jackson County, Missouri. Approximately 30% of babies in Kansas City are born at one of the TMC campuses, and almost 12% of babies born in Jackson County, Missouri, are born too early. Brave Beginnings awarded the hospital a grant for the purchase of two Giraffe OmniBeds, replacing aging incubators that were close to the end of their usefulness. These upgraded beds provide a stable and secure environment that keeps pace with the infant’s thermal needs, reducing environmental stress to the baby. With the capability to convert from a full-featured incubator to a radiant warmer, the equipment provides an integrated care station for even the most vulnerable babies.

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University of Maryland Medical Center (UMCH) in Baltimore City, MD, is one of only two Level IV NICUs in the state, serving patients from all over Maryland. UMCH is a national leader in children’s health care research, and is recognized statewide and regionally as a center of excellence for children with critical illnesses and complex, chronic conditions. UMCH provides round-the-clock care in their 24/7 Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, putting their most talented experts at the bedside of the sickest, most vulnerable patients. They have also established a new Pediatric ECMO Program, allowing care for children who need life-saving cardiopulmonary support. Brave Beginnings awarded the hospital a grant for the purchase of a new Transport Incubator with Ventilator, replacing equipment that was over ten years old. This technology is helping UMCH continue to provide the highest quality of care, ensuring the safety of their most fragile patients.

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Make sure to follow Brave Beginnings on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with Doc’s latest travels in the new year.