In June, golfers at the 17th Annual Geno Auriemma’s Fore the Kids Charity Golf Tournament “teed it up” for babies like Ava and Isabella Camarata, raising funds for a new transport isolette needed to transport premature and critically ill babies to Connecticut Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) in Hartford and Farmington for expert care.
“We believe that Connecticut Children’s saved our daughters’ lives,” said Nina Camarata, whose babies were both transported to Connecticut Children’s on different days in one of the NICU’s two transport isolettes in June 2018. “Had it not been for the impeccable care from the moment they were transported to the moment they were discharged, we feel their lives may have taken a different turn, as fragile as they were.”
Nina and Nick shared their daughters’ inspiring stories with 230 dinner guests at Geno Auriemma’s Fore the Kids Charity Golf Tournament held June 24 at the Hartford Golf Club in West Hartford.
Babies on the Way
On June 12, 2018, Nina was scheduled for a Cesarean section at a community hospital located near their home. She and Nick were expecting twin girls, and were preparing for possible complications. Nina had been diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), a condition that can occur when the placenta is not evenly apportioned between twins. As a result of the imbalance, Isabella was getting fewer nutrients than her sister Ava and was at risk for complications at birth. Two NICU teams were on hand at the delivery due to the risk.
Ava and Isabella were born seven weeks prematurely, with Ava weighing 3 pounds, 11 ounces, and Isabella weighing 3 pounds, 5 ounces. Upon their babies’ arrival, Nina and her husband were elated to learn that Isabella was fine. But, their elation quickly turned to despair when they learned Ava was having trouble.
When the doctors were unable to insert a feeding tube, they learned that Ava had an esophageal fistula and esophageal atresia. A fistula occurs when two tubes in the body, such as the trachea and esophagus, are connected and should not be. Esophageal atresia is a blockage in the esophagus, which prohibits food from traveling from the mouth to the baby’s stomach. The only way to correct the abnormality was to take her to a hospital with the expertise and specialists capable of fixing the problem—Connecticut Children’s.
Just moments after Ava was born, Nina was only able to glance at the top of her brand new baby’s head before she was placed in a transport isolette from Connecticut Children’s and whisked away by ambulance. During transport, Ava had stopped breathing. But thanks to the transport team and specialty equipment on the transport isolette that travels with the ambulance, Ava was revived and delivered safely to Connecticut Children’s.
“It was terrifying for Nick to grant permission for our 3-pound daughter to be operated on, but Dr. Rader’s confidence gave him comfort,” Nina said. She and Nick credit Dr. Rader and her team with saving Ava’s life. “Not only did Ava come out of the surgery successfully, she was able to take a bottle five days later, which is far quicker than most babies are able after the same type of surgery,” she added.
Nina said that having two babies in two different hospitals was an immense strain, both physically and mentally. “But, Connecticut Children’s was once again able to utilize the isolette to safely transport Isabella to Hartford so that she could join her sister at Connecticut Children’s and our family could be reunited under one roof,” she said.
Isabella joined Ava in the NICU on June 21, 2018. As Isabella had some issues with feeding, she stayed in the NICU for 48 days. Ava was able to go home after 18.
“They are doing amazingly well today,” Nina said. “They’ve had their neonatal follow-up appointments and, developmentally, they are right on track. They are delayed with gross motor skills for which they’re receiving physical therapy at Connecticut Children’s.”
Special Transport for Special Babies
For babies born prematurely like Ava and Isabella, transport isolettes are a critical mode of transportation.
“The reason they are important is for the ability to monitor vital signs, provide respiratory support and temperature regulation,” said Marge Julian, RN, Director of Neonatal Nursing at Connecticut Children’s. “Premature babies are not always capable of maintaining their vital signs or temperature.”
A transport isolette 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 heart rate, blood pressure and oxygenation and provide a quiet environment for transport.
“Essentially, we are able to provide every point of care in transport that we are able to provide in the NICU,” Marge said. “That includes oxygen monitoring, blood pressure monitoring, temperature regulation and a quiet environment.”
The new transport isolette, to be purchased with funds raised at Geno Auriemma’s Fore the Kids Charity Golf Tournament, will be a welcomed addition to the fleet of two that Connecticut Children’s currently uses to transport babies weighing under 5 kilos (approximately 10 pounds). These premature and fragile babies come to Connecticut Children’s from hospitals across the state as well as from New York and Massachusetts.
Having a third isolette is particularly important when more than two calls for transport come in at the same time.
“We have a growing number of critical care transports, and we need to be able to meet those needs,” Marge said. “Currently, our Neonatal Critical Care Transport Program provides over 300 babies a year urgent transport to Connecticut Children’s NICUs in Hartford and Farmington.”
Geno Golfers “Tee It Up” for Connecticut Children’s
This year, tournament sponsors, 184 golfers and 230 dinner guests raised $388,000 toward the purchase of the new transport isolette for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit transport team, as well as a highly specialized spinal surgery table for patients undergoing complex spine surgeries in the Division of Orthopedics. Over the past 17 years, Geno Auriemma’s Fore the Kids Charity Golf tournament has raised more than $2 million to benefit patient care at Connecticut Children’s.
In addition to hearing the Camarata family’s story, attendees heard from 13-year-old Shemar Williams, a patient of Jeffrey Thomson, MD. Shemar was born with scoliosis and is undergoing successful treatment with MAGEC rod technology, which uses external magnets to make spinal adjustments instead of surgeries.
Other special guests at this year’s tournament included Booger McFarland, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an ESPN personality and co-host of Monday Night Football. He and Geno joined golfers on a par three.
A Time of Reflection
For the Camaratas, the evening was a perfect time to reflect and share what Connecticut Children’s means to them.
“Not only is the expertise of every clinician so very apparent, but their hearts are even more special,” Nina said. “They truly care deeply for each and every child in the NICU. We were able to leave our babies each day and night knowing that they were in the best care, and that softened the sting of not being able to bring them home with us during that time.”
It is never too late to support patient care at Connecticut Children’s. If you would like to contribute toward a new transport isolette or the spinal surgery table, please visit give.connecticutchildrens.org/geno.