Big hearts for tiny patients
7/30/2012 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The military likes to run on schedules. It allows for a streamline of production and quality control, but babies do not follow those guidelines.
On the fifth floor of Camp Lester U.S. Naval Hospital, resides four neonatologists, 13 medical technicians and 18 neonatal nurses that help take care of young babies that don't yet understand the concept of a schedule.
"We're a team," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Don Henson, neonatal intensive care unit nurse. "It's not just one baby and one tech. It's all of us helping."
One thousand babies are born a year at the fifth floor and about 200 of them make a trip to the NICU because they were born premature. Another 45 cases a year are sent here from all over the Pacific.
The staff has the ability to get a crew in the air in three hours in order to care for these babies in need of extra care.
"Some people think we're a nursery," said Henson, "but we are an intensive care unit."
Even though it may be the second largest NICU in the Air Force, the staff at the Lester NICU takes their time to show the best of care to their tiny patients.
"I can't say enough about this staff," said Angela Nandin, first time mom and recent patient at the hospital.
Nandin's husband, Tech. Sgt. John Nandin, 18th Mission Operation Squadron, was deployed for the majority of her pregnancy with their twin boys and happened to be in Hawaii for elbow surgery due to a skateboard incident when she went into labor.
"Two days after his surgery, I went to my doctor's appointment," Angela said. "And my doctor told me that I was going into labor."
With the support of the Camp Lester staff Angela remained as calm as any soon-to-be-mother can be while she waited on her husband's arrival. Twenty-four hours after Angela arrived at the hospital, she gave birth to their two sons, Joseph and Daniel.
The boys were born five weeks shy of a normal full term pregnancy, so they were relocated to the NICU to be given a little extra care.
"We provide a lot of education to the new parents, "said U.S. Air Force Capt. Rabekah Carlisle, NICU nurse. "We try to let the parents do as much as possible."
The NICU floor has 14 beds ready for the tiny patients but they could potentially care for as many as 24 babies. Even though that may be a lot of running around the staff still takes their time in giving their patients and parents the time and care they need.
"We felt like we were the only ones there," said Angela. "Even though there were other babies."
After their couple week stay with the hospital staff at the NICU, the boys were able to go home to be with their parents and are doing phenomenal now and are even starting to grow out of their preemie clothes.
"We are so blessed to have been here on Okinawa," said Angela. "Our boys will always know about what this staff did for them."