New England Federal Credit Union CEO John Dwyer (far right) presents a ceremonial $1 million check to UVM Children's Hospital Chief Lewis First at an announcement event. (Photo: David Seaver)
On December 11, 2018 at the University of Vermont Medical Center, former patients of the UVM Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), their families, clinicians and hospital leaders, gathered to celebrate a $1 million donation from New England Federal Credit Union (NEFCU). The donation kicks off a project to renovate the UVM Children’s Hospital’s NICU.
While still in the early planning stages, the renovation aims to improve efficiency of the NICU by moving it from two floors in the hospital onto one floor, and provide a more welcoming environment for families.
The event opened with remarks from 13-year-old Wolcott resident Dalton Draper, who was born prematurely at 32 weeks and spent the first 29 days of his life in the NICU at UVM Children’s Hospital. Now, because he feels lucky to be healthy and active, he raises funds for the UVM Children’s Hospital. “Although I don’t remember much [from my stay],” he said to laughter, “I’ve always heard my mom tell stories. She was young, and she was scared,” he said. “Thankfully there were plenty of doctors and nurses to help her through it. Scary things like breathing tubes and blood transfusions, and even the little stuff, like they helped my mom celebrate when I didn’t need the breathing tube after a while.”
Home to the only Level III NICU in Vermont and Northern New York, the UVM Children’s Hospital is a critical resource for families throughout the University of Vermont Health Network and surrounding region.
John Dwyer, president and CEO of NEFCU, announced the $1 million gift on behalf of the organization’s members, and noted that NEFCU has been involved with the UVM Children’s Hospital for more than a decade. “We’ve come to understand the exceptional work that all of the professionals here perform, which has an impact that lasts the entire lives of these tiny patients,” he said. “When we heard that they were preparing to renovate their NICU, we wanted to kick off the fundraising for the project in a significant way.”
NEFCU Knowledge Management System Administrator Charity Kehaya joined Dwyer to represent the many employees and members whose families have received care at the NICU. Her son Evan, also a 13-year-old “graduate” of the UVM Children’s Hospital NICU, joined as well. “When my son was born, he was delivered via emergency C-Section and spent 5 weeks in the NICU here. I wasn’t able to see my baby the day he was born, so the nurses took photos of him and gave them to me in the maternity ward,” she said. “That was such a meaningful gesture.”
Lewis First, M.D., chair of pediatrics at the UVM Children’s Hospital and UVM Larner College of Medicine, outlined the facility’s history of innovative research and compassionate care. On a more personal note, he described how it felt when his granddaughter was born 6 years ago with a medical emergency, and was a patient at the NICU. “I had to step back and allow the care team to get to work,” he said. “Today she’s in first grade.”
Chuck Mercier, M.D., chief of neonatology and professor of pediatrics, and Michele Bouchard, R.N., nurse manager for the NICU, spoke together about the need for renovating the NICU to improve the family experience. “This is about improving the family experience, and it’s a powerful opportunity for us to match the high quality of care we provide to our NICU patients with a truly supportive environment for their families,” Mercier said.
“There’s no place to simply go, hold your baby and close the door,” Bouchard added.
“This generous gift will help us provide the highest quality lifesaving care for our most vulnerable newborns in a family-focused environment,” said John Brumsted, M.D., president and CEO of the UVM Health Network and CEO of the UVM Medical Center.
“The quality and compassion of care that our teams provide is something to be proud of,” said Eileen Whalen, R.N., M.H.A., president of the UVM Medical Center. “This donation from NEFCU will help us renovate our space so that we can continue making a big impact on our tiniest patients and their families.”