When Hattiesburg residents Karen and Anthony Webb took their baby girl home from the hospital, they had no idea that within a few short days little Jordyn would be back in the hospital for a condition that would change her life, and theirs, forever.
When Jordyn was two weeks old, the Webbs took her to see her pediatrician because she had stopped eating. Radiographic studies revealed an enlarged heart, and Jordyn was immediately admitted to Forrest General’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). An echocardiogram detected a chronic heart defect, hemitruncus, which needed to be repaired.
She was transported by helicopter to Jackson where she spent four months enduring multiple surgeries. Jordyn was able to return to Hattiesburg for the last month of her recovery, which she spent back in Forrest General’s NICU. While in the NICU she received a variety of therapeutic treatments from NICU staff, including services from her physical therapist, who is also a member of the skilled staff at The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at The University of Southern Mississippi.
Jordyn is one of many of the Pine Belt’s smallest residents who are on the road to a bright future thanks to the dedication of this team of professionals from Forrest General and The University of Southern Mississippi. The staff and physicians of Forrest General’s NICU and staff members from The Children’s Center are creating seamless transitions into a life full of promise through their mutual commitment to these children.
Premature babies or those with other significant medical complications are offered around-the-clock care during their stay in Forrest General’s NICU until they are released to go home. Prior to discharge, infants in need of developmental and medical monitoring are identified by the neonatologist and are scheduled for the NICU Follow-up Clinic.
At this point the relationship between Forrest General and The Children’s Center begins to take shape. Forrest General provides the scheduling, facility, materials and staff that includes doctors, nurses, social workers, physical and occupational therapists and a Developmental Care specialist. The Children’s Center provides the additional expertise of its audiologist and special educator, who participate in periodic evaluations as members of the NICU Follow-up Assessment Team.
Together, Forrest General and The Children’s Center are able to assemble a full complement of personnel that offer parents a large team of specialists in a familiar place. The Children’s Center staff also serves as a clearinghouse for resources and information regarding development and early intervention. Referrals can also be made to other specialists as needed.
“Forrest General’s NICU is at the forefront of exemplary regional services for critically ill infants, and is their families’ source of help and hope at a very stressful time,” said Cindy Bivins, The Children’s Center’s special educator. “What we know, though, is that once families take their babies home, new issues arise and the supports that had constantly surrounded them aren’t as readily accessible. Forrest General’s NICU Follow-up Clinic affords parents and medical staff the opportunity to maintain a strong connection through periodic medical and developmental monitoring of babies who have been discharged home.”
In her work, Bivins tailors developmental programming and instruction for infants, toddlers and preschoolers with a wide range of developmental disabilities. This includes one-on-one work with the child and parents to assure that parents have the knowledge, skills and resources required to meet their child’s needs. The Children’s Center helps parents identify all options for services and can assist with referrals.
In some instances, parents of babies identified during their NICU follow-up visit as being at significant risk for developmental problems may opt for a comprehensive developmental evaluation and therapeutic services provided by The Children’s Center staff.
“The USM Children’s Center has provided developmental screening for infants in the Forrest General NICU as well as infants in our NICU Follow-up Clinic for years,” said Forrest General neonatologist Randy Henderson, M.D. “Staff from The USM Children’s Center ensure that NICU graduates get the community services they need after discharge. The success of our nursery and the quality of care available to our patients is certainly enhanced by Forrest General’s relationship with The USM Children’s Center.”
“Forrest General Hospital’s NICU has a long history of important collaboration with several departments at the University of Southern Mississippi benefiting our smallest patients and their families,” said neonatologist Clint White, M.D. “The Children’s Center assists Forrest General in providing individualized developmental care to premature infants in our hospital and even after discharge with a goal of fostering developmentally normal children.”
Now that she is happily at home, nine-month-old Jordyn receives speech therapy, physical therapy and educational services in a familiar setting once a week. Jordyn’s mother, Karen Webb, says that choosing The Children’s Center for Jordyn’s treatment was an easy choice after she had encountered them while they helped with Jordyn in the NICU.
“After having people that were knowledgeable and skilled who worked with her in the hospital, it gave us a sense of trust to use them after she was released to go home,” said Webb. “The major benefit of having The Children’s Center come to the hospital is early intervention. My daughter would have been farther behind than she is now had we not started while she was still in the NICU. Early intervention is the key to helping children with disabilities.”
A young man is also living life to the fullest, thanks to the collaborative efforts of Forrest General’s NICU and The Children’s Center. Garrett Sullivan, now nine years old, was born one month premature and given a less than 20 percent chance of survival. Garrett was diagnosed with hydronephrosis, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and Dandy Walker variant.
During his four-week stay in the NICU, he was cared for by neonatologists Randy Henderson, M.D., Kerry Stewart, M.D. and Clint White, M.D., as well as a number of nurses and other healthcare professionals. During that time, Cindy Bivins and colleague Judy Prehn, physical therapist, consulted with NICU staff to optimize Garrett’s developmental course while in the unit. Following two weeks in the step down unit, Garrett was discharged home.
Susan Sullivan, Garrett’s mother, enrolled him in The Children’s Center, where he began therapy at age eight weeks. “Forrest General has a very special program working with The Children’s Center,” said Sullivan. “I believe if it had not been for Drs. Henderson, Stewart and White, I would not have Garrett today, and he would not be as happy and developed as much if it was not for The Children’s Center.
“The Center gave Garrett the love and help he needed at the beginning of his life to learn how to communicate through sign language, how to crawl, walk, develop social skills and much more. I cannot thank both Forrest General and The Children’s Center enough for their care and support.”
About Forrest General’s NICU
Charged with the rewarding but often difficult task of caring for premature or critically ill infants that need specialized care, the physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, respiratory therapists, and support staff of Forrest General’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit are proud of their past and continued legacy. Forrest General opened the doors to its first NICU in October 1977. At that time, the unit was designed to support three babies. Today, the unit features a brand-new facility with 19 private rooms that allows families to stay with their babies 24 hours a day while they receive treatment in the NICU, promoting bonding, education and support. The department is supported by three neonatologists, two nurse practitioners, numerous dedicated nurses, respiratory therapists, acute care techs and secretaries. Forrest General is proud to feature the second-oldest Neonatal Transport Team in the state, which includes a state-of-the-art Neonatal Transport Vehicle. Forrest General is also home to a nationally-recognized Developmental Care program, which focuses on providing treatment to preterm babies to promote the best possible long-term outcomes.
About The Children’s Center
Since 1973, The Children's Center has provided a trans-disciplinary team approach to the assessment and treatment of children with communication and developmental disabilities in the first five years of life. As a clinical division of the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, College of Health, The Children's Center operates through the Mississippi Department of Education, and also is a United Way agency. Statewide services are provided through specialists in speech-language pathology, special education, audiology, physical therapy, occupational therapy and behavioral therapy.
For more information on Forrest General’s Neonatology Services, call FGH OnCall at 1-800-844-4445 or visit forrestgeneral.com. For more information on The Children’s Center for Communication and Development, call 601-266-5222 or email Childrens.Center@usm.edu.