Wednesday, December 7, 2011 12:00 AM

'The best place you never want to be'

Kim Powell cried the day she left Community Regional Medical Center’s antepartum unit for women who are experiencing trouble with their pregnancy. She didn’t want to leave, even though it meant she was going to be delivering her baby and getting off six weeks of bed rest.

“It’s a wonderful team up in antepartum. I became attached to them,” said the new mom. “I actually had them keep my room so I could come back after the delivery.”

Powell was working at Adventist Hospital in Hanford when her water broke three months too early. She ended up at Community Regional where doctors and staff were able to keep her from going into labor for another six weeks, giving her baby just enough time to grow. Community Regional serves as the high-risk pregnancy and birthing center for the region. Hayden was born April 22, 2011, eight weeks early and weighing just 3 lbs 7 ounces.

“They whisked him away pretty fast to the NICU. I kept asking is he okay?” she remembered.

"It's crucial for the survival of these tiny babies to deliver immediate medical care," said Dr. Krishnakumar Rajani, a neonatologist who heads care for fragile newborns at Community Regional's Level 3 NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). With extremely premature abies, Rajani said that quick, appropriate medical action might mean the difference between a thriving infant or one at risk of developing chronic lung conditions, bowel problems or detached retinas. Studies of more than 105,000 very low-weight birhts have shown a 62% increased risk of dying for babies bon at hospitals without a Level 3 (highest level) NICU.

After recovering back in her old antepartum room, Powell worried about being too far away from her baby after she was discharged. But luckily a room opened up at Terry’s House so she didn’t have to drive back and forth from her Hanford home or be more than a 5 minute walk away from Hayden in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

Terry’s House, built entirely by donations from the community, provides lodging across the street from the hospital for families with critically ill or injured loved ones being cared for at Community Regional.

“This is really the best place you never want to be,” she said of her experience at Community Regional. She found support and encouragement from other parents of NICU babies who were also living at Terry’s House. The families shared food in the hospitality home’s kitchen and cheered at their newborn’s milestones. And the nursing staff in the 84-bed NICU helped her learn how to be a professional in caring for her tiny son.

“He never had a lot of stuff hooked to him, but premies have a lot of trouble sucking, breathing, swallowing. They can’t coordinate them well,” said Powell, who dressed her little bundle in sleepers labeled “Handsome.”

With a feeding tube, Hayden made progress, eventually mastering eating and breathing at the same time. “We would usually try to be here for the weighing. We’d get so excited when the number went up,” she said. Shortly after the 5 lbs mark, Hayden got to go home.

At 6 months Hayden was approaching 15 lbs, sitting up on his own and grinning at the grownups in his life, reported his mom. “We are so blessed,” Powell said.

Erin Kennedy reported this story. She can be reached at