Tuesday, August 30 , 2016, 3:16 am | Fair 64º

  • Follow Noozhawk on LinkedIn
  • Follow Noozhawk on Pinterest
  • Follow Noozhawk on YouTube
 
 
 
 

Local News

Cottage Children’s Hospital’s NICU Celebrates 25 Years of Caring for Newborns

A longtime Cottage Health System employee recalls how the unit opened a day early in 1987 to welcome her daughter — its first patient

Cottage Children’s Hospital’s NICU turned 25 on Thursday, celebrating its history of care to more than 8,200 newborns.

The colorful handprints of those children line the corridors of the Children’s Hospital, which are made during annual reunions for neonatal intensive care unit patients.

On a cold Sunday morning — Dec. 20, 1987 — nurses and doctors turned on the lights and got the center running just in time for a 4-pound, 6-ounce patient.

“We were going to open the following day, and we got a call that there was going to be an infant who needs care,” said Dr. Steve Barkley, the medical director.

Mother Stephanie Ralston was grateful for her daughter to be the NICU’s first patient.

“I was so lucky that I could stop the labor and was able to deliver my child here,” said Ralston, who has been a registered nurse for Cottage Health System for 35 years. “They were able to open the unit a day early, and it was comforting to me to be in my own community and have my own support group. It was like coming home and having everybody taking care of me.”

Her daughter, Courtney, also now 25, stayed in the NICU for two weeks and has been healthy ever since.

Courtney was so small, “the premie clothing was just swimming on her,” Ralston said.

Someone suggested she buy doll’s clothes, so Courtney was dressed in Cabbage Patch doll clothing for a while — and even those were a little too big.

Barkley said about half the babies in the NICU are premature, and the other half usually suffer from some complications from delivery.

Elena Arroyo and Jorge Hoyos with daughter Sophia, who turned 4 days old on Thursday and is expected to leave Cottage Children's Hospital's NICU on Friday. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)
Elena Arroyo and Jorge Hoyos with daughter Sophia, who turned 4 days old on Thursday and is expected to leave Cottage Children’s Hospital’s NICU on Friday. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

“Really, the job is, you’re intervening in a family where it’s all gone horribly wrong; this is on no one’s plan,” Barkley said. “Our job is to put them back together.”

Barkley created Cottage’s neonatal intensive care unit with his partner, Dr. Barbara Donnelly, and they both work as neonatologists.

Before the NICU, babies who needed intensive care would be transported to Los Angeles and often wouldn’t survive the trip, Barkley said.

The first NICU had only eight spots, and demand quickly outgrew it. The current one, finished in 1996, has 22 beds and a whole staff of specialists.

It’s the only neonatal surgical facility between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, Barkley said.

“Almost every problem that a newborn suffers, we can take care of here,” he said.

Elena Arroyo and Jorge Hoyos welcomed little Sophia into the world this week and said everyone working in delivery and the NICU was wonderful. She was born at full term and weighed 9 pounds.

“All the nurses have been so good to my little girl,” said Arroyo, holding her 4-day-old daughter.

They plan to take Sophia home to her two brothers on Friday.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk's intent is not to limit the discussion of our stories but to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and must be free of profanity and abusive language and attacks.

By posting on Noozhawk, you:

» Agree to be respectful. Noozhawk encourages intelligent and impassioned discussion and debate, but now has a zero-tolerance policy for those who cannot express their opinions in a civil manner.

» Agree not to use Noozhawk’s forums for personal attacks. This includes any sort of personal attack — including, but not limited to, the people in our stories, the journalists who create these stories, fellow readers who comment on our stories, or anyone else in our community.

» Agree not to post on Noozhawk any comments that can be construed as libelous, defamatory, obscene, profane, vulgar, harmful, threatening, tortious, harassing, abusive, hateful, sexist, racially or ethnically objectionable, or that are invasive of another’s privacy.

» Agree not to post in a manner than emulates, purports or pretends to be someone else. Under no circumstances are readers posting to Noozhawk to knowingly use the name or identity of another person, whether that is another reader on this site, a public figure, celebrity, elected official or fictitious character. This also means readers will not knowingly give out any personal information of other members of these forums.

» Agree not to solicit others. You agree you will not use Noozhawk’s forums to solicit and/or advertise for personal blogs and websites, without Noozhawk’s express written approval.

Noozhawk’s management and editors, in our sole discretion, retain the right to remove individual posts or to revoke the access privileges of anyone who we believe has violated any of these terms or any other term of this agreement; however, we are under no obligation to do so.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >