Freeman News

Freeman celebrates NICU's 20th year and unveils Angel Eye

August 21, 2014

Freeman Health System opened its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) knowing the need for such care was undeniable.

JOPLIN, Mo. – Freeman Health System opened its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) knowing the need for such care was undeniable. Before Freeman NICU, premature or critically ill infants were sent outside the region, pulling parents away from their support system at home or separating them from their precious child because the distance was too far to travel each day. With the establishment of Freeman NICU came the comfort of knowing specialized care is immediately available to the area’s smallest and most fragile patients. At the time, Freeman leaders anticipated 90 babies would be treated in the NICU each year. By the end of the first year, 300 babies had been admitted. Twenty years later, more than 5,770 infants have had a fighting chance to live thanks to the care they received at Freeman NICU.

In honor of the NICU’s 20th anniversary, Freeman hosted a celebration for NICU graduates and staff. The carnival-themed event featured food, games, prizes and moments to reminisce about the many memories made these past 20 years.

Also in honor of the momentous occasion, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, in conjunction with Walmart and Sam’s Club, donated Angel Eye NICU Camera System, a secure web-based camera system that allows parents to remotely see their child via a live feed. A camera mounted to the baby’s bed provides parents 24-hour access to their child, helping ease the pain of separation if parents must return to work or leave the hospital for any length of time. 

“Leaving a newborn baby, whether for one hour or for one day, is difficult. That difficulty is compounded when the child must be left in the hospital. Angel Eye ensures families can always stay connected to their little one, regardless of location. What a gift this is to families who are already enduring so much,” said Paula Baker, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer. 

As the region’s only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, Freeman benefits from the generosity of the charitable organization and businesses such as Walmart and Sam’s Club who support it. Walmart has been a national partner with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals since 1987. Angel Eye was purchased from funds raised during Walmart and Sam’s Club’s 2014 campaign to support Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. 

“We are able to do incredible things for very sick children thanks to the kindness of businesses such as Walmart,” said Heather Lesmeister, Freeman Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Program Director. “Miracles happen here every day, thanks to their assistance.” 

Angel Eye was designed to encourage bonding between parent and child, incorporating a one-way, low-decibel audio system, so parents can talk to the child. The system is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act because it does not store any patient information or record the video stream. Parents can allow access to as many as 20 loved ones who wish to see their baby. Once an infant is discharged, all accounts associated with the infant are removed from the system. 

“Freeman NICU continues to grow and improve, thanks to Freeman’s affiliation with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and their national partners such as Walmart and Sam’s Club,” said Bobbie Yoakam, Freeman NICU Assistant Director. “Their generosity doesn’t equate to just new equipment and an expanded space. They enable us to care for more premature or critically ill infants right here in Joplin instead of having to send babies to another region. With the help of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the businesses who support them, we’ve had the privilege of saving the lives of thousands of babies.” 

Freeman continuously benefits from the generosity of Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. In 2011, Freeman NICU underwent a $1.3 million expansion and renovation, thanks to a donation from Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. The expansion grew the NICU’s number of beds from 14 to 24 and incorporated a “rooming out” space for parents to use the night before taking their baby home. The expansion also featured new monitors and incubators/warmers to eliminate the need to move infants from device to device. 

Freeman NICU has increased survival rates for infants less than three pounds, thanks to medical care provided by its doctors, neonatal nurse practitioners, specialized developmental therapists and nurses. 

About Freeman Health System
Locally owned and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. A not-for-profit health system, Freeman provides cancer care, heart and vascular care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services, and women’s services and has more than 300 physicians on staff. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit or or follow Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker at