The Most Critical Care: Medical Systems Support for Newborns
Contributor: E. Franklin Sykes, Jr., PE, LEED AP BD+C
One thing I appreciate as a project manager and now client manager for the University of North Carolina Hospital is that this is an opportunity for an engineer to contribute to the medical field. The Newborn Critical Care Center (NCCC) expansion project is one recent example. We worked with UNC’s Children’s Hospital to expand their patient capabilities with the addition of ten bassinets in the NCCC.
Many of the infants who are admitted into this center are simply trying to survive the initial stages of life. I found myself paying special attention to this project because my wife gave birth to our first child not far from this project area. Although we were fortunate to have a healthy baby boy from the moment he was born, my wife experienced complications that were significant enough to require a blood transfusion. Even though it may not seem as severe given today’s medical technologies, my father’s great-grandmother did not survive childbirth back when medical procedures were not nearly as advanced.
Through the firsthand experience of witnessing how healthcare advances helped my wife, it enhanced my desire to perform our due diligence and to make sure that these medical professionals had everything they needed to restore health to these newborn infants.
I found myself in amazement at some of the medical procedures these doctors and nurses could perform on such tiny babies. This medical staff had to be equipped with the proper tools in order to perform their craft. This is where the contributions provided by Dewberry revealed their significance.
During our conversations about the medical gas systems, one doctor pointed out that too much oxygen could be detrimental to some infants. So we honed our focus on the medical gas design even further to ensure that capacities and controls were optimal, even when factoring in such considerations as ventilators and equipment usage diversity throughout the hospital.
Equally important, some patient procedures require electricity with a direct path to the heart muscle. This made us acutely aware of the importance of providing isolated power in this patient unit. In fact, by using a wedge-shaped headwall design, we tried to ensure that the medical staff, patients, and patients’ families were as comfortable and equipped as they could be in such a challenging set of circumstances.
Although this project met the requirements of being on time and on budget, it was about much more than that. If there is anything that makes this project unique, it’s that it’s helping a segment of society that is unable to help itself. These infants are not admitted into the Newborn Critical Care Center because of elective procedures. They are in this unit in hopes that the medical staff can stabilize their existence. Every day these infants live is a miracle within itself.
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