2014 Little Giraffe Foundation Neonatal Grant Awards

After long deliberations, Little Giraffe Foundation voted to fund 9 initiatives for 2014, totaling over $26,000 – 2 Neonatal Research Grants to forward medical care for premature babies and 7 NICU Support Grants designed to improve the lives of the families and babies in the NICU.


Neonatal Research Grants

Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns - $10,000 Awarded

Research: A Randomized Placebo Controlled Trial of Early Caffeine in Preterm Neonates.

Anup Katheria, M.D. – PI, Director of Neonatal Research Institute

This award will be matched 1:1 by Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns.

Caffeine is routinely given to extremely premature infants to improve breathing. Recently, two trials demonstrated that early caffeine therapy is associated with decreased lung damage and improved developmental outcomes. While giving caffeine to premature infants has long been the standard of care, the timing of caffeine administration is highly provider-dependent. Some choose to give it in the delivery room (DR) while others may wait several hours or even days to begin therapy. No study has randomized the timing of caffeine administration to determine whether early caffeine can be beneficial. Early caffeine may enhance breathing sufficiently to avoid insertion of a breathing tube (intubation) early in life. This may promote stabilization of blood flow and decrease potential complications of prematurity such as bleeding in the brain. Our study will randomize premature infants to receive caffeine either in the first two hours or at 12 hours of life.

The primary aim of our study is to compare the respiratory effects of caffeine administered soon after birth (within 2 hours of life) versus routine administration (at 12 hours of life) in infants <29 weeks’ gestation. Our primary hypothesis is that caffeine administered in the first two hours of life will prevent the need for intubation in the first 12 hours of life. Secondary aims include detailing the acute hemodynamic effects of caffeine and assessing the hemodynamic effects of receiving early caffeine in the first 12 hours of life. These evaluations are critical in determining both the safety and efficacy of early caffeine therapy.

University of Maryland Medical Center - $10,000 Awarded

Research: The Development of Speckle Imaging as a Non-Invasive Diagnostic for Retinopathy of Prematurity

Osamah Saeedi, MD – Co-PI, Director of Clinical Research, Department of Ophthalmology
Janet Alexander, MD – Co-PI, Pediatric Opthamologist

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is a condition in which blood vessels in the eyes of a premature infant do not develop properly, potentially causing impaired vision or blindness. Early diagnosis is critical to prevent loss of sight. American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend an ophthalmology screening exam for 2-5% of premature infants to assess the risk of developing ROP, a leading cause of childhood blindness. The current standard for diagnosis is a subjective evaluation of retinal vascularization and/or neovascularization in the retinal periphery with attention to the degree of dilation and tortuosity of the posterior retinal blood vessels. This is performed by a specially trained ophthalmologist often at a specialized center. There is a critical unmet need for a standardized, more accurate method of screening infants for ROP. We are working with Vasoptic Medical Inc. to develop a handheld retinal imager (XyCAM™) and software algorithms for early detection of ROP. The device utilizes dual imaging techniques – fundus photography and speckle imaging – to capture quantitative anatomical and physiological information from the microvasculature of the retina. The objective of the proposed work is to conduct work to develop novel algorithms for use in this device for diagnosis of ROP.


NICU Support Grants

Advocate Children's Hospital, Oak Lawn, IL - $1,000 Awarded

NICU Parent Scrapbooking/Music Therapy Group at Advocate Children's Hospital - Oak Lawn, IL

Advocate Children’s Hospital – Oak Lawn (ACH-OL) is the only free-standing children’s hospital located outside the City of Chicago that serves as a regional specialty referral center for the entire metropolitan area. In 2012, our 37 bed Level IIIc neonatal intensive care unit provided care for 1,046 premature and seriously ill infants, including 155 newborns that required surgery. Building from experiences as caregivers to a culturally-diverse patient community and as parents of newborns admitted to the NICU, the multidisciplinary NICU team proposes to implement a new biweekly group program to reduce acute stress and promote healthy coping skills among parents of NICU babies. Through creative use of art, music, and cognitive-behavioral therapies, the team will address the immediate psychosocial support needs of stressed parents. The intervention aims to prevent mental health concerns from escalating or developing into chronic conditions that may, in turn, negatively influence the child’s development. The team will empower parents to:

• Create a celebratory record or memory book of their child’s progress
• Connect with other NICU parents in a “normalized” space
• Learn and practice self-care through art-making, music therapy and relaxation techniques
• Access support from music therapist and other clinical staff

The funding from LGF will allow for the purchase of memory books, general art supplies, and tools.

Aultman Hospital, Canton, OH - $1,000 Awarded

Ideal Nutrition for Preterm Infants – Providing Donor Breast Milk in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit

The Aultman NICU strives to provide the best care for each premature infant. Human milk is recommended for all infants, for the best nutrition and to provide immunity that will reduce life threatening infections. Infants 22-29 weeks gestation are the smallest and most at risk of complications. Mothers are often too ill to provide breast milk for their infants and certain drugs also interfere with a mother's ability to provide breast milk. Inadequate supply of mother's own breast milk is also a factor. This grant would assist the mother in providing a safe alternate source of human milk to meet the nutritional needs of her baby.

The first feeding is very important to colonize the gastrointestinal tract with good flora to prevent Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), since formula cannot do this and does not have the same protective qualities. The NICU would like to purchase donor milk ahead of time so that it is available as soon as it is needed.

The Little Giraffe Foundation grant will allow the NICU to purchase a 2 month supply of milk to have it readily available when a newborn needs it.

Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center, Portland, ME - $1,000 Awarded

Helping NICU Families at Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center Stay Connected with Their Babies

The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital provides extensive care for premature births or infants born with medical complications. There are 51 beds within our facility. This is the largest level III NICU in the state, therefore many families reside at a considerable distance from here as we serve families from Maine and New Hampshire. With an average of 900 annual admissions and 200 transports from outlying hospitals, parents struggle to be consistently present. During flu and RSV season our NICU does not allow any visitors under the age of 18 to visit. For young siblings using FaceTime is a great way for them to meet their new sibling and feel connected. Visitor restrictions typically last for 2 months. During the summer we also see an influx in “vacation babies,” and the iPad will allow for parents who typically have to return home for work to be a part of their child’s care. The purchase of the iPads will be used exclusively in the NICU to share special moments.

The Little Giraffe Foundation funding will provide 2 iPads which will enable parents the opportunity to use FaceTime and stay connected with their infant or to connect with distant family and friends.

DCH Foundation, Tuscaloosa, AL - $1,000 Awarded

Helping NICU Families Bond with their Babies

DCH's two neonatal intensive care units care for approximately 500 premature babies each year. The babies are from DCH's 11-county service area, in predominately rural West Alabama, where parents may not have the monetary resources to visit their babies daily, or even weekly. A permanent fund has been established at The DCH Foundation to assist parents with transportation needs to visit their babies. Approximately one to three families receive assistance monthly. The Parent Transportation Program was originally established in 2012 with a $ 1,000 grant from the Little Giraffe Foundation. Parents who benefit from this program are very happy to be able to visit their baby. They share how grateful they are that such a program is in place.

Distributions from this fund provide gas card(s) to parents for weekly visits with their baby.

Forrest General Hospital, Hattiesburg, MS - $1,000 Awarded

NICU Parent Meal Ticket Program at Forrest General Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Forrest General Hospital serves 19 rural counties and many of our parents have low incomes and limited resources which makes them unable to purchase food during the long length of stay of our NICU babies. There are times where our staff will assist and feed families out of their own pockets because they are committed to the family centered care that we strive to promote. We want our parents to be able to spend as much time as possible with their babies to promote healing and bonding.

The money received from this grant will ease some of the financial burden for our parents. We would use the funds to purchase meal tickets that would be used in our hospital cafeteria and in-house Subway restaurant. These meal tickets would be given to parents in need so they could purchase a healthy meal while they stay with their baby. Offering these type meals will also help our breast feeding mothers be able to eat more consistently and to produce more milk for their babies.

Rockdale Medical Center, Conyers, GA - $500 Awarded

Gas Cards for NICU Parents at Rockdale Medical Center

Rockdale Medical Center (RMC) is located in Conyers, Georgia in Rockdale County. Rockdale County Georgia is a fast growing suburban community located 24 miles east of Atlanta and has a population estimated by the Atlanta Regional Commission at 76,900. Rockdale Medical Center serves Rockdale, Newton, Dekalb, Walton and the
surrounding counties.

In February 2013 The Birth Place completed the expansion of a new state of the art NICU. The NICU expansion facilitates parental involvement with large spacious units and private rooms for the sickest neonates. Research indicates parental involvement decreases the chances re-hospitalization. It is very important for parents to create an emotional bond with neonates by touching and holding their child. At RMC parents are encouraged to participate in daily care activities that will also help create a positive emotional attachment. Parent and neonate interaction promotes awareness and knowledge of baby's need which decreases anxiety when baby discharges home.

The funds received from Little Giraffe Foundation will provide parents with supplemental gas funds to address the unexpected expense of commuting to the NICU.

Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, San Diego, CA - $966 Awarded

Gas Cards for NICU Parents at Rockdale Medical Center

Sharp Mary Birch cares for more neonatal patients than any other hospital in San Diego County and treats approximately 200 premature infants weighing less than 1,500 grams. Our recently expanded 84-bed Level III NICU is one of the largest of its kind in Southern California, treating over 1,400 newborns annually with more than 150 transferred from other hospitals. In 2013, the NICU discharged 1,500 neonatal patients.

We have an existing support group for NICU parents that helps to celebrate the birth of their baby in a stressful environment. It is a scrapbooking therapeutic process group that is run by a licensed clinical social worker. We have had great success in providing group support when NICU parents attend the weekly group.  Parents who have attended over the years have articulated how important the group was in helping them process their child’s NICU admission and find unstructured support by meeting other parents with like situations.

The funds received by Little Giraffe Foundation will allow for the purchase of scrapbooking and coffee supplies needed to maintain the NICU parent support group.

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Please consider donating a toy to a preemie during this particularly difficult time for families with babies in the NICU!