Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Connects With Patients Through Tender, Loving, and Quality Care

Deras family
The Deras family. Top left to right: Rafael II, father; Abigail, sister; Mayra, mother; and the triplets, bottom left to right: Rafael III, Francheska, and Jason.

Mayra Deras was close to six months pregnant when she started dilating. Her high-risk pregnancy required her
to be transferred to a hospital with a good Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). She was brought to White Memorial.

White Memorial is a Level 3 NICU -- the highest level. This means we have the capability of providing medical care to even the smallest of babies. In fact, a good number of babies in White Memorial's NICU are transferred here from other hospitals.

At White Memorial, Deras remained in full rest position close to a month while the hospital's Labor and Delivery staff remained on stand by. Finally, the moment came; Deras reached full dilation and an emergency C-section had to be performed. Deras remembers giving birth in a room full of observers made up of family medicine doctors and residents. White Memorial is a teaching hospital, and this was, after all, a very special birth that books alone couldn't teach.

On October 23, 1992, Rafael III, Francheska, and Jason Deras were born prematurely. The babies' small frames could be sustained without artificial respiration, but they had to remain in NICU until they reached their full term. "It's hard for a mother to understand why she's going home and not her children," said Deras.

Deras began a three-month, daily commute to White Memorial. On weekends, Rafael II, her husband, and her then 8 year-old daughter, Abigail, would visit as a family. Those three months were also the beginning of a strong connection between the Deras family and the NICU nurses who cared for their babies. "They listened and were very understanding," acknowledged Deras. "They understood I had another child, and they took extra care of the babies when I wasn't around. I communicated to the nurses to make sure the triplets got fed at different times and they did."

Little Rafael, Francheska, and Jason went home three days before Christmas, leaving a priceless present for the NICU nurses and the entire hospital -- their friendship. Today, after almost 12 years, the Deras family continues to visit the NICU nurses. A majority of the 1992 staff are still with White Memorial.

Since the opening of the unit on January 1, 1978, White Memorial's NICU has always experienced a very low employee turnover. "The longevity of the nurses in the unit ranges close to 30 years," said Anna Clausen, NICU Manager. "That speaks volumes about the staff's commitment and love for what they do."
"We are a family," said Alice Rubio, Unit Secretary, proudly. Rubio was also NICU staff when the Deras triplets were here. "We know and care about each other," she said. "It takes good people to take care of babies."

It's that caring and loving family atmosphere that the Deras family fell in love with 11 years ago, and it's what keeps bringing them back to visit. "Working in NICU can really affect the nurses," recognized Deras. "Some stories are successful and others are not. Visiting them is a way to keep their spirits up and make them see their work is not in vain."

Caring for such small and fragile human beings can be emotionally involving for the nurses. They get attached to the babies, and losing one is like losing one of their own. That's why the Deras family visits are so important to the staff. "It's rewarding when parents bring them back," said Rubio. "We are happy to see them," said Angie Cabos, RN.

The Deras are one of several families with former NICU babies who continue to visit the NICU staff. The babies are now children, teenagers and adults, but they share such a tremendous love and gratitude for the work of the NICU staff that they've become a family within a family.

Several photos of the Deras triplets' visits are posted outside the NICU, helping account for a truly successful story. It's quality care and excellent customer service that fostered the Deras' appreciation, loyalty and gratitude. "White Memorial is a good hospital with great nurses," affirmed Deras.

The NICU staff's quality care and excellent customer service made an unforgettable "Wow!" moment for the Deras family that, after giving birth, Deras volunteered for a short while as a translator at White Memorial. Her experience here was so positive that today she works in the admitting department of a hospital close to home. Perhaps the biggest "Wow!" moment was bestowed on little Rafael who begins to voice an interest in becoming a "doctor for babies."

The Deras family wishes to express a very special "Thank You!" to the NICU staff.