Freeman NICU expansion allows treatment for more "miracle babies"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - Freeman NICU expansion allows treatment for more "miracle babies"

JOPLIN, Mo.—Ella and Easton Napier arrived in this world three and one-half months ahead of their due date. Ella, born with a brain bleed, weighed 1 pound, 9 ounces. Easton, whose lungs were underdeveloped, weighed 1 pound, 11 ounces.

When they were born, their doctor sat with their parents, Danesa and David Napier of Miami, Okla., and explained that neither child was likely to survive. Because of the bleeding in her brain, Ella, especially, was not expected to live. If she did, doctors believed she would most likely have cerebral palsy and would never walk.

The twins were treated in Freeman Health System Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for 89 days. Under the care and supervision of Freeman NICU doctors, neonatal nurse practitioners, specialized developmental therapists, and nurses, the babies thrived. Danesa and David were able to take their twins home on November 4, 2006, three weeks prior to their expected due date.

In retrospect, Danesa realized that in some ways the doctors were right about Ella—she does not walk. Instead, she runs, jumps, and skips. Despite the odds, today Ella and Easton are both happy, healthy 4-year-olds. Danesa and David credit the health of their “miracle babies” that to the care they received in Freeman NICU.

“To this day, we tell the twins the reasons they are alive are God and their NICU doctors and nurses,” said Danesa Napier.

An expansion of Freeman NICU will allow the health system to treat more miracle babies like Ella and Easton. In January 2011, Freeman NICU began a four-month, $1.3 million addition funded by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The project added 10 beds to the 14 already in place, and provided new equipment and technology to give premature and critically ill babies every opportunity for a healthy life.

“With this expansion, it is the goal of Freeman NICU to not transfer any babies from the immediate area because of over-capacity,” said Jeffrey Carrier, Freeman Chief Nursing Officer. “Freeman is incredibly grateful to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and all their donors who made this much-needed addition a reality. The lives of our tiniest patients—the babies within Freeman NICU—will be greatly impacted by their generosity.”

The number of preterm babies throughout the region has increased during recent years; on some occasions, the number of babies treated at Freeman NICU has reached 24. Not only does this expansion allow Freeman to care for more critical and premature infants, it allows the health system to do so with less noise and more privacy for families.

The 2,100-square-foot addition features a rooming-out facility, which allows parents to stay overnight in preparation for taking baby home for the first time. The expanded Freeman NICU also now offers two private rooms for twins or more critical babies.

New, state-of-the-art technology has been provided to Freeman NICU by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, which purchased two Giraffe® OmniBeds. These allow a baby to remain in a single bed serving as both a warmer and isolette, which is an enclosed crib that maintains a safe environment for the baby. Because of the kindness of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, this space also features new carbon dioxide monitors, warmers, syringe pumps, and bilibeds, which are beds with a special light used to treat jaundice.

In 1993, when Freeman opened the NICU, hospital officials projected it would treat 90 babies annually. That first year, Freeman NICU provided care to more than 300 babies. Eighteen years and two expansions later, Freeman NICU has now cared for 4,544 premature and critically ill infants. 

About Freeman Health System
Not-for-profit, community-owned, and locally governed, Freeman Health System is a 407-bed, three-hospital system. Based in Joplin, the fourth largest metropolitan area in Missouri, Freeman provides comprehensive healthcare and behavioral health services to an area that includes more than 450,000 residents from Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. For more information, visit Follow Gary Duncan, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer, at