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Photo courtesy of Northwell Health
John and Jacob Oquendo at the 35th Anniversary celebration of the Cohen Children's NICU on Aug. 1.

By Katherine Neri

As the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Cohen Children’s Medical Center marks its 35th anniversary, more than 350 people — including former patients, their families and staff — came together for the celebration on Sunday, July 29.

The children’s hospital, located in New Hyde Park, is ranked among the best in the country for their exceptional care, technique and services and have been on the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospital list for 12 consecutive years. The medical center’s NICU has been giving seriously ill newborns the critical care and treatment they require since the center first opened in 1983.

Over the years, the care unit has grown from two neonatologists to 22 and has treated 2,088 cases in 2017 alone using the most advanced equipment in neonatology.

“All in all, we are very proud,” said Joanna Beachy, associate chief of perinatal medicine and neonatology. “It’s a team effort — doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists and nutritionists — everybody is involved in making sure that we have the best outcome that we can.”

The unit houses a total of 57 beds and uses a transport system that includes physicians and nurses. If needed, they will even use Northwell Health’s SkyHealth emergency helicopter — which flies at 135 miles an hour over traffic below and can travel 25 miles in around 10 minutes, whereas an ambulance may take an hour or more along the same route.

Cohen Children’s NICU continues to be an active participant in key national research and “recently celebrated maintaining a zero infection rate for central-line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) for more than 400 days,” according to the press release.

Everyone came together to celebrate their numerous successes including Carolyn Quinn, Morgan Saatchi, and Tiffany Collado — all mothers who relied on the medical center’s expert care to save their children.

Quinn, Cohen Children’s deputy executive director and former pediatric ICU nurse, is thankful for the help the hospital provided when her triplet sons were born at 29 weeks gestation.

“I am proof that you can get through it,” Quinn said. “These are the best people in the world to take care of your children. I would not be doing as well as I did without the nurses and doctors here. Thank you for helping me celebrate them.”

Her boys are now all 21 years old.

Saatchi’s son had been born at 31 weeks gestation, weighing a total of only 2 pounds, 4 ounces. The baby, Maverick, also suffered from tracheoesophageal fistula and underwent his first surgery when he was a mere 24 hours old. His first stay at the NICU was for more than eight weeks, but he has since been back at the hospital for nine more procedures and 15 hospitalizations to treat a collection of conditions that include staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS) and a collapsed esophagus.

A healthy Maverick is now 4 years old and cannot help but smile every time he walks into the hospital.

“The fact that he’s happy to be here is a testament to the people,” Saatchi said.

Collado’s son, Jacob, was born 10 weeks premature at 3 pounds, 4 ounces, has severe chronic lung disease and underwent six surgeries, five blood transfusions, four rounds of high-dose steroids, a tracheotomy with ventilator support and a surgically placed feeding tube during his 11-month stay in the NICU. Jacob also fought meningitis and hydrocephalus.

“My experience here was amazing,” Collado said. “Before I came here I didn’t know anything. We were so scared, but the bedside manner here is incredible. I’ve developed relationships here with everyone.”  

This 35th anniversary celebrates the thousands of lives Cohen Children’s NICU has, and continues to, both save and change.

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