Giving Back to the Shady Grove NICU
When Wendy Hembrough went for a sonogram, she knew there could be some hard news. She had a history of miscarriages. When the doctor hesitated, she expected the worst.
“I asked him if he saw a heartbeat,” she said, “and he shook his head and said, ‘I see two.’” With two children already at home, Wendy and her husband, Todd, couldn’t believe they were expecting twins. Her doctors began monitoring her pregnancy closely.
In December 2002, about two months before her due date, Wendy experienced 10 contractions close together. Her doctor urged her to go to the hospital. Shortly after arriving at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center, Wendy’s water broke. That evening, Wendy gave birth to two boys: David at 9:20 p.m. and Scott at 9:26 p.m. The moments after were a whirlwind, but Todd said the couple felt secure because of the team members in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
“Immediately after the boys were born, I felt like it was going to be absolute chaos,” he said. “There were neonatologists, nurses, so many people in and out of the room. But it wasn’t chaos; it was amazing to watch the efficiency of the team and the attention they gave in those moments to make sure the babies were okay.”
Though two months early, the babies each weighed over 5 pounds. They were admitted to the NICU to monitor their weight gain and lung development.
“People asked me if I was scared, leaving them there,” Wendy said, “but I always told them no. I knew the boys were in the best place, the best hands they could be in.”
David and Scott were in the NICU for two-and-a-half weeks, which included Christmas. One of the NICU nurses gave Wendy and Todd two snowflake ornaments with the boys’ names and birthdates on them to take home and put on the tree.
“They’re the first two ornaments I hang on the tree every year,” Wendy said, “and I get teary-eyed every single time.”
LOOKING FORWARD AND GIVING BACK
Now, both boys are active high school seniors, Eagle Scouts and deciding on which colleges to attend. As they approached their 18th birthday, Wendy and Todd wanted to find a way to give back.
“We believe really strongly in charity,” Todd said, “and we have taught our children that they should always prioritize that whenever they can.”
As Todd and Wendy decided where to make a donation, the NICU at Shady Grove Medical Center seemed like a no-brainer.
“Those weeks our boys spent in the NICU was such an emotional time,” Wendy said, “and knowing that our boys were with people who cared about them was something we have carried with us for their entire lives. So, Todd and I decided that we wanted to help people who would be going through the same things that we went through.”
In December 2020, Todd and Wendy donated $10,000 to the NICU. With guidance from the unit and the Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center Foundation, they directed their gift to the purchase of an Arctic Sun™ Blanket.
“The Arctic Sun™ cooling system is used for babies who were deprived of oxygen during delivery,” said Laura Speer, clinical nurse manager of the NICU. “Oxygen deprivation puts these babies at risk for brain injury, so the cooling blanket helps keep their core temperature down to prevent damage to the brain.”
The cooling blanket is used over 72 hours, cooling the baby’s temperature to 92.3 degrees.
“The technology of this system is one of the most superior on the market right now,” Laura said, “so we feel so fortunate to have this in the NICU.”
The Arctic Sun™ system works with an amplitude-integrated EEG (aEEG) machine, which monitors electric activity in a baby’s brain to help detect early seizures. The Foundation was able to purchase the required aEEG machine by pooling other gifts to the NICU, including a donation from Howard Vogel, chair of the Shady Grove Foundation Board, and his wife, Kimberly.
“Having this new technology allows us to be incredibly precise in our treatment with these babies,” Laura said. “We now have the best of the best.”
The Shady Grove NICU team began using the Arctic Sun™ system in October 2020, after caregivers were trained. The first baby treated with the blanket had a great outcome and went home a few days later, Laura said.
“It’s so nice to know that these machines will save lives,” Todd said. “It’s a good feeling knowing that we could help parents who are going through a tough time like we did.”
As David and Scott look forward to college and their futures, their parents can’t help but look back on their start in the NICU at Shady Grove Medical Center.
“Back then, it took a huge weight off my shoulders knowing that our boys were in such good hands,” Wendy said. “They had the best chance of surviving and thriving because they were there. The NICU staff made our family complete.”