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VOL. 128 | NO. 56 | Thursday, March 21, 2013

Miracle Workers

MED Foundation gala to raise money for hospital’s lifesaving efforts

By Jennifer Johnson Backer

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Jennifer Harvey was still several months away from her due date when she developed life-threatening high blood pressure, a condition known as preeclampsia.

Sloane Evans, 2, with mother Jennifer Harvey, visit staff at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and President and CEO Reginald Coopwood, right, at The MED. Sloane was born premature and was cared for in the NICU. The Med Foundation is having its biggest fundraiser of the year on Saturday. (Photo: Lance Murphey)

The condition can threaten the life of the unborn baby and the mother.

Harvey was taken to The Regional Medical Center at Memphis, where doctors and nurses worked to lower her blood pressure and to monitor her unborn baby. When they couldn’t detect the baby Sloane’s heartbeat three days later, she was delivered months early in an emergency Cesarean section. A team of The MED’s neonatal intensive care unit doctors and nurses was ready to care for Sloane as soon as they heard her faint cry.

She weighed just 2 pounds and 10 ounces at birth.

“Pictures don’t do it justice,” Harvey said. “She is our miracle baby.”

Babies like Sloane benefit from the specialized training and equipment The MED is able to provide the hospital, says Tammie Ritchey, vice president of development and executive director of The MED Foundation, which raises funds and awareness for the hospital.

Ritchey is gearing up for the foundation’s largest annual fundraiser, which will be held at The Peabody hotel Saturday, March 23.

So far, the response has been strong. Ritchey said she expects more than 800 to attend the gala, dubbed MED Night: A Soul Celebration 2013, and featuring soul legends like The Commodores, Ohio Players and The Spinners.

As the financial outlook for The MED has improved in recent years, so has that of the foundation, Ritchey said. According to data from GuideStar, the foundation received $900,608 in contributions and grants during 2010, compared to $711,477 during 2008. The foundation has averaged $5 million to $6 million in assets in recent years.

“People want to invest in a successful organization,” Ritchey said. “As The MED has become clearer in their strategy for the future and the role they are going to play in health care, that’s given our donors confidence.”

Nurses Katie Walker, center, and Alecia Marley from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at The MED visit Sloane Evans, 2, with mother Jennifer Harvey, and grandmother Rachel Harvey. Sloane was born prematurely early in the third trimester and was cared for in the NICU. The Med Foundation is having their biggest fundraiser of the year on Saturday, March 23, to provide support for state-of-the-art equipment and speciality training. (Photo: Lance Murphey)

Ritchey said The MED Foundation continues to make investments in the neonatal intensive care unit and other areas of the hospital. Right now, The MED Foundation is working with the hospital to replace and renovate the overall campus, including the women and infant’s wing, the burn unit and the trauma center. Each of those areas will be renovated or completely rebuilt.

The foundation also has made significant investments in specialized equipment. Its purchase of neonatal isolettes for babies born very early has helped improved outcomes for premature babies like Sloane. The isolettes help regulate the ambient temperature and the baby’s temperature.

“We don’t just buy equipment and give it to the hospital,” Ritchey said. “They sit down and tell us our priorities and the things they want to do over the next five years.”

Premature babies are at a higher risk of dying and other serious complications. Between 2007 and 2009, about 25 percent of babies born at The MED and weighing between 1.3 pounds and 1.7 pounds died. That figure had dropped to 14 percent in 2010.

“If their temperature drops a lot, they don’t have very good outcomes,” Ritchey said. “The isolettes allow our staff to provide the kind of clinical care that the baby needs. This is just one thing we can do to remove the risk.”

Today, Harvey credits The MED with saving Sloane’s life, and her own.

While Harvey was hospitalized for two weeks after giving birth, Sloane remained in The MED’s neonatal intensive care unit another 58 days. Because Sloane was born so early, she wasn’t able to suck and swallow like other babies. Shortly before Thanksgiving, she had surgery to install a centerline to help her eat.

“Most moms get to bring their babies home, I had to go home without my baby,” she said. “That’s just not what you think when you are expecting.”

Because of that, Harvey said she’s grateful for the special bond Sloane’s nurses formed with her daughter.

“They are taking care of your child when you can’t be there,” she said. “They are right there with your baby every step of the way.”

Today, Sloane is a healthy and happy 2 1/2-year-old. Harvey recently took Sloane to visit the NICU ICU to visit the doctors and nurses who helped with her care.

“Sloane is alive today because of them,” Harvey said.

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