Babies Thriving, Parents Celebrating Anniversary at CHoP - Philadelphia News, Weather and Sports from WTXF FOX 29

Babies Thriving, Parents Celebrating Anniversary at CHoP

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Thousands of children probably wouldn't be alive today, if it wasn't for a local resource most of us take for granted. 

Fifty-years ago, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia opened the first-ever neo-natal intensive care unit, also known as the nic-u.  And parents of sick babies have been grateful every day since, including the parents of Chaya Cheng.  "We get to go home tomorrow," Chaya's mother Talya Schaeffer told FOX 29 with a smile on her face.  "That's the rumor all the doctors are spreading."

That may not sound surprising if you see 10-month-old Chaya.  She looks happy and healthy.  But a look at photos taken when she was born, 11 weeks early, show a tiny fragile newborn.  She weighed only one pound five ounces.  Three months later, when she arrived at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, "It was touch and go," Schaeffer said.  "I mean, she came here, she was incredibly sick."  

Throughout the first months of Chaya's life, Schaeffer wondered, "Is she going to live, or is she going to die?  And is it going to be today?  Is it going to be in an hour.  Is it going to be in 10 minutes?  It is a horrifying feeling." 

One that President Kennedy and his wife went through in 1963.  John and Caroline's little brother Patrick arrived five-and-a-half weeks early, and died two days later.  "The type of therapies that we expect today were just not available," explained Dr. Steven Altschuler, the chief executive officer of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.  Fox 29 asked Dr. Altschuler if he thought that child might have survived today?  "Guaranteed," he said, without hesitation.  

And that's largely because of the neonatal intensive care unit at CHoP.  The hospital opened the very first one in 1962, an anniversary that thousands of grateful parents everywhere are celebrating. 

"It was really a departure from the way care had been organized," Dr. Altschuler said.  "So if you think about events that completely change the way you think about an issue," the opening of the nic-u was one of them. 

Dr. Altschuler called it a revolutionary idea.  Groundbreaking research still continues at CHoP, to try to improve the lives of the babies treated there.  For example, "Some of these babies get their lungs affected for the rest of their lives," Dr. Phyllis Dennery explained.  "How do we prevent that?"  Dr. Dennery is the division chief of the hospital's Neonatology unit.  

"Thank God there's a place like CHoP for these children to go to, because without CHoP my daughter wouldn't be here," Schaeffer said.

When it opened in 1962, CHoP's nic-u had only 12 beds in one room.  Today there are 95 beds, and 1,200 infants a year receive treatment there.

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