August 24 2007 - First Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

For Immediate Release

August 24, 2007

For More Information:

John Moore
Media Relations
(903) 531-4542


TYLER, TX - Officials with Trinity Mother Frances Health System announced today that plans are underway to open the first neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in Tyler to provide a higher level of care for infants born prematurely or with serious health problems.  The new Level IIIA NICU will be funded in part through community support of the "New Lives NICU Campaign" launched by the Trinity Mother Frances Health System Foundation to encourage philanthropic donations from citizens of Tyler and the surrounding area.

Mrs. Mary Dale Thomas has been named honorary chairman of the "New Lives" fundraising effort. Wife of Dr. Patrick Thomas, retired president and chief medical officer of Trinity Mother Frances Health System, Mrs. Thomas stated, "I am thrilled that a higher level of care will soon be available for our smallest patients born in this area.  As a mother and grandmother, I know that everyone in our community will be touched by the opportunity to help make this dream a reality for families with high-risk infants.  I believe it is time for all of us to help bring the benefits of a higher level of obstetrical and specialty neonatal care for all expectant mothers in this region.  I am looking forward to educating our community about the opportunities for giving to help Trinity Mother Frances Health System bring the first NICU to our area."

"Throughout the history of Mother Frances Hospital, we have been committed to providing compassionate and excellent health care to the women and children of our community," said Lindsey Bradley, president, Trinity Mother Frances Health System.  "A Level IIIA neonatal intensive care unit is vitally needed to serve critically ill and premature infants born in our hospital and at other nearby facilities.  Our ability to care for premature and sick infants in Tyler will be a great benefit for families who must now travel many miles to receive necessary medical care."

According to Mary Elizabeth Jackson, president, Trinity Mother Frances Health System Foundation, "The 70-year tradition of caring for families at Mother Frances has helped us become known as "the baby hospital" for generations of east Texans.  Providing the region with the first neonatal intensive care unit is a natural extension of our mission to provide excellent health care for all, and especially for the youngest and weakest among us.  We are counting on everyone in the community to help us bring this vitally needed service to the area by donating whatever they feel they can afford to share."

In the twelve months ending July 2007, nearly 3,000 babies were delivered at Mother Frances Hospital.  Of these, 180 babies and many of the mothers of these newborns required transport to facilities outside the area to received an advanced level of care.  In addition, 162 babies born elsewhere in the region also required transport.

A Level IIIA NICU requires highly specialized technology, including state-of-the-art respiratory, nutrition and monitoring equipment.  Unique environmental controls to positively impact the medically fragile infants must also be in place to eliminate unnecessary stress levels.  In addition, a Level IIIA NICU is staffed by highly-trained caregivers including neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, physical and respiratory therapists, registered nurses, lactation consultants, social workers, speech and occupational therapists, technicians and related medical care providers, on site 24-hours a day.  A specially trained neonatal transport team is on-staff around the clock for emergency air and ground transport.

According to Tom Hargrove, MD, Trinity Clinic pediatrician, "The need for a NICU in Tyler is real.  More than five percent of all newborns experience medical problems because of premature birth, low blood sugar, birth defects, breathing difficulties, growth restriction, infections or maternal health problems.  The optimal setting for treating many medically fragile infants is a NICU.  Bringing this resource to Tyler will be of great benefit to the entire community.  A Level IIIA NICU will allow both premature infants and full-term newborns with health problems to receive highly specialized quality care without leaving home."

One young couple who experienced the physical, emotional and financial strain caused by the unexpected birth of a premature infant are Holly and Matt Izard of Whitehouse, TX.  Their daughter Abby was born four weeks prematurely at Mother Frances Hospital, suffering from respiratory distress and required transport by ambulance to a NICU in Dallas, where she was hospitalized for three weeks.

According to Mrs. Izard, "The last thing a mother wants to hear is that her newborn child is struggling to survive.  And then to be told that your baby must be transported to Dallas for treatment makes it even more of a challenge.  It puts an intense strain on the entire family.  I was on the go less than 24-hours after giving birth.  I didn't stop to take care of myself; I was too busy worrying about my newborn who was on a ventilator, my toddler at home who couldn't understand what was going on and why mommy was gone, all of the travel, where I could stay in Dallas, not to mention the expense of everything, and all of the insurance company headaches incurred from the confusing, complicated situation."

After three weeks in Dallas, Mrs. Izard and baby Abby finally were released to return home.  "There is a definite need for this facility in our
community," she added.  "I was amazed at how many Tyler-area babies were sent to just this one particular Dallas hospital.  When you think of a sick child, you think of a mother caring for her child at home.  I hope that everyone in east Texas will contribute to this campaign to help Mother Frances care for our sick babies at home. It would make a world of difference."

The "New Lives NICU Campaign" fundraising goal is $1.3 million to help build the new neonatal intensive care unit at Mother Frances Hospital, purchase vital technology required to care for the newborns, and staff the facility with specialists.

"There are many opportunities for concerned and caring people to give to this important endeavor that will mean so much to all families in our area," stated Mrs. Thomas.  "Any gift, large or small, will be a potentially life-saving contribution for a premature or sick infant and will help keep families here at home during a stressful time of medical emergency."

For more information on how to contribute to the "New Lives NICU Campaign," please contact the Trinity Mother Frances Health System Foundation at (903) 531-4752 or visit the website at


Mary Dale Thomas, Honorary Chairman, "New Lives" NICU Campaign, Trinity Mother Frances Health System Foundation.

Abby Izard, infant daughter of Holly and Matt Izard of Whitehouse, was transferred to a Dallas hospital immediately after her birth in Tyler due to respiratory problems.

Trinity Mother Frances Health System has announced plans to build the first and only neonatal intensive care unit in Tyler and is asking for community philanthropic support for this vital medical service for newborns in the area.