One Mom’s Story Inspires Innovation at Lurie Children’s

“Great things can happen when you share your story,” says Julie Vanderpoel. “Amazing things happen when someone listens.”

Julie knows this firsthand. In the August 2014, she wrote a touching piece about being separated from her daughter, Emma, after she was born. While Julie and Emma’s twin sister, Olivia, were at Prentice Women’s Hospital, Emma had serious health issues, which required specialized treatment at Lurie Children’s.

“Just hours after birth, Emma was rushed to Lurie Children’s…I was only able to see her for a few minutes, and wouldn’t see her again until I was discharged four days later.” – Julie Vanderpoel (Aug. 2014 issue of Heroes Update)

Little did Julie know, these words would catch the attention of a Lurie Children’s employee, and spark a new hospital program that ensures parents like her no longer have to endure a lengthy separation from their newborn baby.

“I realized we had the opportunity to help families like the Vanderpoels,” says Stephanie Pelligra, a project manager in Ambulatory Services at Lurie Children’s. “No family should have to experience that type of separation from their baby.”

It was in that moment that the idea for Baby Care Connect was born.

Launched on Mother’s Day 2015, Baby Care Connect allows moms who are recovering after childbirth to have a live video visit with their infants in the Lurie Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or the Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit. Using technology readily available at the hospital, parents can participate in family-centered rounds and discussions with the care team, while also spending quality time with their child.

Baby Care Connect. Innovation at Lurie Children's.

As the inspiration for the idea, the Vanderpoels had the chance to learn about the program first-hand during a recent trip to the hospital. Emma even had the opportunity to decorate and name the Baby Care Connect cart, which she appropriately dubbed “Emma”.

Baby Care Connect. Innovation at Lurie Children's.
The Vanderpoels pose with Stephanie Pelligra using the Baby Care Connect technology.

Julie Vanderpoel found comfort knowing that her story had made a difference for other families like hers.

“We initially shared our story to let other families know there is always hope,” said Julie. “We never imaged that it would lead to a program that not only changes the way a family connects with their baby but also allows them to become an integral member of the team making decisions regarding their child’s daily medical care.”

As for Stephanie, she took pride in knowing that the hospital was helping to make sure families would no longer have to experience the heartache that comes from spending time away from their newborns.

“As a non-clinician you don’t always have the opportunity to fix the problem, so it felt good to be able to directly impact the lives of our patients and families,” says Stephanie.  “We’re grateful to our families who provide their feedback and allow us to continually improve upon our care. Know that we’re always listening.”

You can support Lurie Children’s Telemedicine programs like Baby Care Connect. Make a gift at luriechildrens.org/donate. Learn more about the Lurie Children’s Telemedicine Program here

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