2015 Little Giraffe Foundation Neonatal Grant Awards

After long deliberations, Little Giraffe Foundation voted to fund 16 initiatives for 2015, totaling over $42,000 – 4 Neonatal Research Grants to forward medical care for premature babies and 12 NICU Support Grants designed to improve the lives of the families and babies in the NICU.


Neonatal Research Grants

Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Minneapolis, MN - $10,000 Awarded

Research: Tocolysis for preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM): a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial to evaluate neonatal and maternal outcomes.

Kristi Borowski, MD – PI, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Our project goal is to determine if tocolysis through the steroid window in pregnancies affected by PPROM can minimize neonatal morbidity by completing a course of corticosteroids without resulting in increased maternal or neonatal infection rates. We propose a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial to evaluate the effect of tocolysis compared to placebo among women who experience PPROM between 23 0/7 and 33 4/7 weeks gestation. Both study groups will receive current standard of care for PPROM, which includes a 48 hour corticosteroid course and latency antibiotics. Participants will be randomized to receive placebo or nifedipine tocolysis through the corticosteroid administration period. Per the standard of care, study participants will remain inpatient until an indication for delivery develops (i.e. intra-amniotic infection) or until they reach 34 0/7 weeks gestation. Neonatal and postpartum maternal outcomes will also be assessed through manual electronic chart review.

Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, Cleveland, OH - $10,000 Awarded

Research: Stem Cell-Based Therapy in Hyperoxia-induced Lung Injury, a Model of Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia

Christopher Nitkin, MD – PI, Neonatology Fellow

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a common lung disease seen in babies born prematurely, and although a variety of  therapies are available, there is no cure for BPD. Lung damage results from both inflammation and excess oxygen, and several genes are important in protecting the lungs against this injury. Mice or rats exposed to increased levels of oxygen develop lung injury similar to that found in BPD, and giving stem cells to these animals has been shown to treat and prevent this lung injury, but it is not known how stem cells accomplish this. We propose studying the mechanism by which stem cells exert anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects, comparing the effect of stem cells obtained from healthy adult humans to those obtained from umbilical cord blood, providing valuable insight that may aid in optimizing stem cell-based clinical therapies. To accomplish these goals, we will use our recently developed in vitro and in vivo models of hyperoxia-induced lung injury.

University of Connecticut School of Nursing, Storrs, CT - $6,210 Awarded

Research: Continuing to Explore our Knowledge of the Relationships Between FKBP5 and Early Life Stress in the NICU.

Amy D'Agata, MS, RN – PI, Doctoral Candidate

While prematurity is the greatest risk factor, both genetics and environment serve as contributing risk factors for health trajectories for infants spending extended lengths of stay (LOS) in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between stressful early life NICU experiences, genetic variation of a stress response-associated gene (FKBP5) and neurobehavioral outcomes.

We will examine genetic variation in relationship to stress experience for effects on neurobehavioral outcomes in a total of 93 preterm infants. This proposal extends the work begun during a pilot study currently underway with 50 preterm infants in the NICU. This study increases the initial sample size and adds the opportunity for more complex analyses of the outcomes. Buccal swabs are collected for genotyping of FKBP5 SNPs. Exploratory data analysis will be used to obtain initial insights into the effects of FKBP5 genotype, NICU stress experience, and their interaction on infant neurobehavioral development at 35 weeks post-menstrual age.

Understanding the genetic and environmental risk factors for neurodevelopmental impairment will provide for the development of evidence-based practice initiatives to protect those that are most vulnerable due to the combination of genetic susceptibility to stress and medical fragility. Evidence from this study has the potential to lead to neuro-protective and stress reduction protocols.

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA - $5,000 Awarded

Research: Vitamin conservation in premature infants: a role of megalin in the proximal tubule of the kidney

Jennifer Charlton, MD, Msc – PI, Assistant Professor

With the improvement of premature infant mortality, there is a critical need to find modifiable factors to improve the long-term morbidity of the vulnerable premature population. There is emerging evidence of the significant risk for chronic kidney disease (CKD) during childhood in former very low birth weight infants. Every filtering unit (nephron) of the kidney is developed prior to birth in a healthy human. A multitude of factors are involved in this progression towards chronic kidney disease but many are unique to the premature infant including kidney immaturity and exposure to nephrotoxins. It is critical to understand the causal pathway between premature birth and CKD to improve outcomes. An under-studied area in the development of chronic kidney disease is the role of the proximal tubule and the developmental regulation of its receptors, in particular the receptor, megalin. The long-term goal of our group is to protect the brief and exclusive window of nephron formation in premature infants. To work towards this long-term goal, the objective of this proposal is to explore the developmental expression of the receptor megalin in the proximal tubule in a premature mouse model to explore a novel mechanism for the development of kidney disease in premature infants.


NICU Support Grants

Advocate Children's Hospital, Park Ridge, IL - $1,000 Awarded

NICU Family Gas Cards at Advocate Children's Hospital - Park Ridge, IL

The NICU at Advocate Children’s Hospital – Park Ridge provides extensive care for premature births or infants born with medical complications.  Approximately 600 - 700 infants are admitted each year to this 54 bed state-of-the art special care facility. According to criteria set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), our NICU has received a Level IV designation for the highest level of treatment for newborns with the most complex of medical conditions.  The unit participates in the Vermont-Oxford program that sets benchmark standards for NICU’s across the nation.   We are a regional treatment center that attracts patients from a wide geographic area, inclusive of residents from surrounding states.

There are many families that reside at a considerable distance from the selected hospital that can provide the best care their infant needs. The added stress of not being able to afford travel expenses can be reduced when a gas card is offered.  Gas cards increments would be a greatly appreciated to enable parents an opportunity to visit from as far as Racine, Rockford, Aurora; Indiana, etc.  Some parent visits are infrequently if they need to rely on rides from friends or relatives.    There are on occasion parents who are not able to visit at all during the entire hospitalization.   These gas cards would promote an opportunity to reunite parents with their baby and would be distributed to families most in need. Considering some admission can be as lengthy as 8, 9, 10 months or more, our ability to encourage parent visitation during such extended stays could be expanded with additional gas cards.

The funding from LGF will allow for the purchase of 100 - $10 gas cards for NICU families.

Edward Hospital, Naperville, IL - $945 Awarded

Providing Equipment for Edward Hospital's NICU Overflow Unit

Edward has the largest NICU in DuPage County, seeing 343 admissions last year and by the end of fiscal year 2015 in  June it will be more than 400. Edward is among the top 10 birthing centers in the state and a leader in high-risk and multiple births. Ten percent of those admissions are extremely premature infants. The NICU maintains a Level III designation – the highest level of care for babies in Illinois.

The Little Giraffe Foundation grant will allow the NICU to purchase a penguin warmer to warm feedings to maternal body temperature, while protecting 100% of the milk’s delicate properties therefore guaranteeing the infant receives 100% of the nutritional value of each feeding.

Floyd Medical Center, Rome, GA - $1,000 Awarded

Helping to Provide Comfort to NICU Babies at Floyd Medical Center

The Floyd Medical Center Level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) provides advanced care to over 300 babies born at Floyd Medical Center each year. Through the family-centered environment and kangaroo care approach, the NICU staff works together with parents to offer the best care for babies needing specialized care after birth.

The NICU at Floyd is open twenty-four hours a day and parents are encouraged to visit their babies at any time and as often as they wish. However, for some of our patients, the parents or families are not able to visit the NICU very often or in some cases are not there at all. NICU babies experience physical and emotional benefits through the presence and contact of caregivers. The comfort of being held by a parent or caregiver is an important part of the healing and developmental process. The mamaRoo seat simulates this feeling for infants using natural motions that create a calming effect on patients.

The Little Giraffe Foundation funding will provide four mamaRoo seats, four replacement seat covers, and eight adjustments inserts. The mamaRoo seats have the ability to move just as a parent would when holding their infant and provides and will provide comfort when a parent cannot be there.

Franciscan St. Anthony Health, Crown Point, IN - $1,000 Awarded

Swaddling Clothes Program at Franciscan St. Anthony's NICU

Franciscan St. Anthony Health - Crown Point is a full-service, acute-care medical center and a trusted leader in providing faith-based, integrated care with a 12-bed, Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The Level III designation assures 24-hour availability of in-house, experienced staff to provide comprehensive care for critically ill newnborns and management of obstetric complications. The Franciscan Alliance Foundation, based in Mishawaka, Indiana, raises and expends funds to support the services of Franciscan Alliance, Inc., an integrated healthcare network including 13 hospitals in Indiana and Illinois.

Franciscan Alliance Foundation will be launching the St. Anthony's NICU Swaddling Clothes Program. The funds will be used to purchase nearly three dozen HALO® SleepSack® Swaddle wearable blankets with swaddle wraps to distribute to needy families of preterm infants. The objective is to reduce heat loss among preterm newborns in a manner that supports American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations including "back to sleep" or suspine positioning without loose bedding in the crib and use of a safe swaddling technique. The Swaddling Clothes program would formalize the NICU's desire to support the families struggling with the added challendes of caring for a preemie by distributing the HALO® SleepSack® Swaddle wearable blankets with swaddle wraps as gifts to individual families.

The Little Giraffe Foundation funding will provide nearly three dozen HALO® SleepSack® Swaddle wearable blankets with swaddle wraps to distribute to needy families of preterm infants.

Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health, Lafayette, IN - $1,000 Awarded

Transportation and Food Voucher Program at Franciscan St. Elizabeth's NICU

Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health - Lafayette is a regional referral center for high-risk pregnancies. It is open 24 hours a day/7 days a week, with experienced staff to provide comprehensive care for critically ill newborns and management of obstetric complications. Premature infants born at other birthing hospitals in the surrounding communities that are unable to care for them are often picked up by St. Elizabeth NICU staff and transported to the level III NICU at St. Elizabeth Health - Lafayette.The Franciscan Alliance Foundation, based in Mishawaka, Indiana, raises and expends funds to support the services of Franciscan Alliance, Inc., an integrated healthcare network including 13 hospitals in Indiana and Illinois.

The money received from this grant will help parents in need with gasoline purchase cards to assite them when driving to visit their newborns. Bus tokens will enable those parents without personal transportation to visit their infants on a regular basis. Food vouchers for the hospital's cafeteria will assit mothers who are with their babies for extended periods of time, but cannot afford to purchase numerous meals away from home. Fifty percent of the population served by the St. Elizabether NICU is either on Medicaid or uninsured, therefore in need to financial assistance to alleviate a portion of the burden they may be experiencing.

The Little Giraffe Foundation funding will provide 50 $10 gas cards, 100 $1 bus tokens, and 80 $5 cafeteria vouchers for families qualified to require financial assistance.

Gundersen Health System, LaCrosse, WI - $980 Awarded

Infant CPR Anytime© Program at Gundersen Pediatric Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

The Gundersen Health System is a physician-led, non-profit healthcare system that spans 19 counties in western Wisconsin, northeast Iowa, and southeast Minnesota, and serves a population of about 570,000. The Gundersen PNICU serves between 180- 200 patients a year.

The Infant CPR Anytime© program is used at Gundersen to teach new parents how to relieve a choking infant and perform infant CPR. The program is contained in a kit that includes an instructional DVD and manikin. Infant CPR Anytime© teaches CPR for babies from birth to six months old using the AHA’s research-proven “practice while watching” technique that allows users to watch and learn lifesaving skills with the aid of an instructional DVD while practicing on a personal manikin. Users can complete the program in about 20 minutes in Spanish or English. Each family will complete the program during their infant’s hospital stay and will be given a kit to take home to refresh skills as needed. PNICU nurses are available to answer patient questions to enhance the use of the kits.

The funds received from Little Giraffe Foundation will to purchase 28 American Heart Association (AHA) Infant CPR Anytime© personal learning programs for parents with children in the Pediatric Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Gwinnett Medical Center, Lawrenceville, GA - $1,000 Awarded

Family Centered Care Program at the Gwinnett Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

The Family Centered Care Program at Gwinnett Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) will be supporting its NICU families by the purchase of hotel vouchers, restaurant gift cards, books and i-Tunes apps for parents to educate themselves about their premature baby. The products would be distributed to parents who are living outside the local community or struggling financially during this time of crisis within their family. We want to make a family’s time spent in the NICU as easy as possible.

The funds received by Little Giraffe Foundation will allow for the purchase of 10 $50 hotel vouchers, 12 $25 resturant certifications, 5 copies of the book The Preemie Primer, and 20 $5 iTunes gift cards for the purchase of The Premature Baby App.

Little Bear Foundation, Chicago, IL - $250 Awarded

NICU Siblings Support Pilot Program at the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

NICU Siblings Support Pilot Program at the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital those parents with older children not in the NICU. The program will provide a safe haven for those children while mom and dad visit and bond with their preemie and will offer a fun, interactive, therapeutic and educational morning or afternoon for siblings of preemies in the NICU. Children will be able to choose from arts and crafts, reading books to encourage sibling support, and movement.

Marian Regional Medical Center, Santa Maria, CA - $1,000 Awarded

Donor Milk Project at Marian Regional Medical Center

The NICU at Marian has 21 beds and is officially designated as a Level III unit which provides fragile newborns with the most complex of care. The NICU's dedicated team works collaboratively to ensure that all critically ill babies born at Marian receive exceptional care in a safe, comfortable and caring environment. In 2014, there were almost 320 NICU admissions accounting for over 4,000 days of inpatient care. The average length of stay of a fragile newborn in the NICU is 30 days. In addition, Marian has affiliations with UCLA Medical Center and Valley Children's Hospital in Madera which provide access to cutting edge medical treatments and therapies from within our facility.

As the population of fragile neonates born into Marian's NICU increases, donor milk has become a recent priority for Marian to meet the needs of its patients. Consequently, existing funding for the project is limited. There has been one initial donation to establish the fund to provide for early program needs, but the goal is to enhance the funding to be able to provide for the growing number of premature newborns and families requiring donor breast milk. The breast milk is purchased from Mothers' Milk Bank of California based in San Jose which screens and pasteurizes all donations.

Marian would like to grow this program by purchasing more donor breast milk. This cost is often a hardship for many of Marian's NICU families. Over 71 percent of the births at Marian are to Medicaid patients. It is worth noting that 1) almost half of all births in Santa Barbara County occur at  Marian; 2) two-thirds of the women giving birth at Marian are Latino, one of the highest proportions in the state. While the volume of milk and length of stay will vary for each premature infant, grant funds will be used for the direct purchase of the milk for the infant while they are in the hospital.

The funds received from Little Giraffe Foundation will provide a 30-day supply of donor breast milk for the NICU babies at Marian Regional Medical Center.

Phoenix Children's Hospital, Phoenix, AZ - $1,000 Awarded

Pediatric Palliative Care Program at Phoenix Children's Hospital

The Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Phoenix Children's Hospital is a Level IIIc Nursery, the highest certification
given by the Arizona Perinatal Trust. While many babies will thrive and leave our NICU, some will require quality,
compassionate end-of-life care while in the NICU. The NICU at Phoenix Children's has 33 patient beds, including 10
private rooms which offer increased privacy and comfort during the end-of-life stage, supported by the Palliative Care
Program. Part of this comfort is alleviating the burden on parents to leave their child for any amount of time for any
reason, even if it's to get a meal for themselves or other members of their family.

Pediatric palliative care focuses on enhancing the quality of life for children and their families with serious, lifethreatening
or life-limiting conditions. The Palliative Care Program at Phoenix Children's Hospital takes a negative experience, finds positive moments, and promotes comfort for each child and their circle of familial support. When curative and preventative treatments are no longer options, the Palliative Care team continues to work with the family to realize the family's wishes and goals for end-of-life care. Families of an infant experiencing end-of-life understandably do not want to leave their child's bedside for any reason. The Meals Assistance Program at Phoenix Children's Hospital supports Palliative Care and provides cafeteria vouchers or food delivery to families who have a need for convenient meal choices. This service provides the comfort of stress-free nutritional meal options and allows families to be with their children without having to leave to pick up food on their own.

The funds received from Little Giraffe Foundation will provide 200 meals annually to NICU families who are facing an end-of-life situation with their infant.

Tiny Miracles Foundation, Darien, CT - $1,000 Awarded

Food Stocking at Stamford Hospital, Norwalk Hospital, Bridgeport Hospital, and Danbury Hospital NICU's

The The Tiny Miracles Foundation (TTMF) mission is simple, yet profound: TTMF is dedicated to helping families with premature babies in Fairfield County, Connecticut. All programs, services, and supplies are provided free of charge.

Our mentors, who are in each hospital on a regular basis, make certain the Resource Rooms are fully stocked with food. They share with the TTMF Program Director the status of the supplies and notify the Program Director when restocking is necessary. We work closely with a number of different suppliers and food and other nutritional supplies are ordered in a timely basis to ensure that each room is adequately stocked at all times. Because TTMF has established relationships with suppliers and because we are often able to purchase in bulk, the costs are reduced. We are ensured that each resource room is fully stocked with food for parents at all times.

The funds received from Little Giraffe Foundation will be used to purchase food for the Resource Rooms at Stamford Hospital, Norwalk Hospital, Bridgeport Hospital, and Danbury Hospital NICU's.

The Woman’s Hospital of Texas, Houston, TX - $1,000 Awarded

Food Pantry for the NICU Families at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas

March of Dimes NICU Family Support Program has sites throughout the country. One of the largest sites is located at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas (TWHT) in Houston, Texas. TWHT NICU is a 124 bed unit caring for babies in the Houston and surrounding communities as well as babies transferred from up to 120 miles away.

In addition to having the emotional and financial burden of having a newborn hospitalized, many of these families also face the hardship of being away from their homes for extended periods of time. Our goal this year is to establish a food pantry available to NICU families that would provide meals and nutritional snacks to them.

The funds received from Little Giraffe Foundation will be used to establish the food pantry for the NICU families at Woman’s Hospital of Texas.

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