When Riley Kalajainen entered the world in November 2012, she weighed 1.5 pounds. Born nearly 15 weeks early following an emergency caesarean-section, she was immediately transported to Connecticut Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU), where she received the specialized care she needed to survive. Transporting babies as small as Riley was at birth requires a special kind of transport isolette—the kind made possible last year by the Geno Auriemma “Fore the Kids Charity Golf Tournament.”
Riley’s adoptive parents, Jackie and Kim Kalajainen, had not yet met their future daughter when she was transported from Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington to Connecticut Children’s. She was transferred shortly after birth on November 4, 2012, for what was to become a 5-month NICU stay—first in Farmington and then in Hartford.
Riley’s medical challenges were indeed extensive, but so was the love of her new family who met her for the first time in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) in May 2013 and formally adopted her in April 2014. “We spent nights training for medical emergencies, learning how to resuscitate her,” Jackie said. “It was the extraordinary care she received at Connecticut Children’s that enabled her to learn how to breathe on her own and begin to eat by mouth before being discharged.”
In October 2013, after spending the first 11 months of her life on a ventilator and the feeding tube that kept her alive, Riley was finally able to go home, where she joined her 7-year-old brother, Cooper. By that point, she weighed 9 pounds, a little bigger than the average newborn.
Tiny Babies, Big Challenges
Premature babies like Riley often have complex medical issues requiring complex care. As premature and critically ill babies are brought to Connecticut Children’s from hospitals across the state, as well as from New York and Massachusetts, the Neonatal Transport Team is always on the go. On average, the Neonatal Critical Care Transport Program provides urgent transport to more than 300 babies a year. (In Fiscal Year 2019, there were 342.)
The newest transport isolette was added to the existing fleet of two in March. And, over the past few months, it has been kept in continuous service during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our Neonatology Transport Team uses the new isolette as their primary isolette,” said Marge Julian, RN, Director of Neonatal Nursing at Connecticut Children’s.
For babies born prematurely like Riley, a neonatal transport isolette is critical because it allows the transport team to monitor a baby’s vital signs, provide respiratory support and regulate temperature. It is also designed so that the transport team—consisting of a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, a registered nurse and a respiratory therapist—can monitor a baby’s heart rate, blood pressure and oxygenation in a quiet and calming environment.
“This purchase has ensured that we have a current state-of-the-art isolette,” Marge said. “We were able to build an isolette to include current technology for a ventilator, and it has allowed us to build our cardiac monitor into it as well. This cardiac monitor is able to integrate into our electronic medical record,” she added.
The 2020 Geno Auriemma Event
Over the past 17 years, the Geno Auriemma “Fore the Kids Charity Golf Tournament” has raised more than $2 million to benefit patient care at Connecticut Children’s. In addition to the neonatal transport isolette, last year’s tournament supported the purchase of a specialized spinal surgery table for patients undergoing complex spine surgeries.
And while the COVID-19 pandemic may have interjected some social-distancing changes this year, the 18th annual event will be bigger and better than ever before. This year’s event, billed as Geno Auriemma’s Fore the Kids Virtual Evening Program & Charity Golf Day, will take place on August 2 and August 3.
The “Fore the Kids Virtual Evening Program” will kick things off on Sunday, August 2, at 8 p.m. from the comfort of viewers’ homes. With participants’ safety and health as a top priority, a virtual reception will be broadcast in place of an on-site evening event. The program is free and it will be open to the public for the very first time, giving the general public the unique opportunity to bid on exclusive auction items previously only accessible by event attendees.
The “Fore the Kids Virtual Evening Program” will feature Hall of Fame Coach Geno Auriemma, celebrity guests, follow-along interactive cocktail creations, a patient ambassador who came to Connecticut Children’s at 2 days of age, as well as silent/live auction items and a live appeal. An entertaining keynote address from Geno Auriemma will top off the evening.
On Monday, August 3, registered participants can enjoy a day of golf at the Hartford Golf Club in West Hartford. The event will look a little different, but the plan is to give participants a great day on the links while staying safe. In addition to food and beverage, golfers can enjoy exciting contests on the course.
Proceeds from the 2020 Geno Auriemma’s “Fore the Kids Virtual Evening Program & Charity Golf Day” will support the Greatest Need Children’s Fund at Connecticut Children’s. From the tiniest babies cared for in our NICUs, to children who are seen via video visits through our Virtual Health Program, to adolescents and young adults undergoing cancer treatment in our Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders, the Greatest Need Children’s Fund assures that all patients receive the specialized care they need and deserve.
For more information about this year’s event, please visit give.connecticutchildrens.org/geno.