Thanks in part to the NCH Foundation, the Level III NICU at NCH is now a reality. To find out how you can help us continue to offer state-of-the-art facilities and advanced technologies, click here.
Northwest Community Hospital's (NCH) Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) was once a very distant dream. In the mid-2000s, the Hospital's strategic plan included building a variety of upgrades and expansion, but creating a new NICU wasn't yet one of them. At the time, the special care nursery had just eight beds and a rapidly growing admission rate.
Ultimately, a vision evolved to build a brand new intensive care nursery for newborns connected to the South Pavilion's new fourth-floor labor and delivery unit. The NICU would have twice as many rooms—all private—with the space to accommodate family caregivers and the technology to offer the most advanced care. The plan included creating a unit that met the requirements of a Level III perinatal facility, so that NCH could keep even the most premature and critically ill babies close to home. At the outset, NCH also worked to strengthen its relationship with what is now the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
When it came time to seek out financing, the community came to the rescue. Through the NCH Foundation, more than $6 million in charitable gifts was raised toward the $8.5 million project, ensuring a timely start to construction and a fulfillment of the ideal vision. "Once we let donors and civic leaders know how important it is to have this level of care for our most vulnerable patients, the response was phenomenal," says Foundation Vice President David Ungurean.
Gifts came in from individuals, local businesses and family foundations. The project got a big boost with a seven-figure, anonymous gift from a long-time resident and entrepreneur who wanted to give back to the community he loved. As the excitement grew, opportunities to help fund the new space were included in the Foundation's year-end appeals—and grateful NICU moms spoke about their inspiring experiences at our annual dinner for donors who give $1,000 or more yearly.
By 2009, community volunteers chose to make the NICU project a featured funding opportunity at all of the Foundation's fundraising events. It all paid off when a 16-bed, state-of-the-art NICU was opened in 2010—and qualified for Level III status in 2011. In its first full year of operation, the NICU served 500 newborns, including 100 who in the past would have had to be transferred.
"We're grateful for everyone who helped make this unit possible, whether they shared their stories, planned or attended events, or wrote a check for $25 or $25,000," Ungurean says. "It all added up to a powerful statement about a big-hearted community where people reach out to whatever extent they can to improve life for their friends and neighbors. It's what makes this a great place to live and work."