Paul and Sagri were told their quadruplets of four girls wouldn’t make it past three weeks after they were born.
The couple did their research, deciding that Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, which opened a unit for high-risk infants last month, would be the place for their babies.
The 10-bed maternity ward is for mothers who are expected to give birth to babies with serious health complications who will need immediate intensive care after birth. Five rooms are for labor and delivery; five are for antepartum care for mothers. A surgical center and waiting room are also part of the unit.
Women whose pregnancies are deemed high risk could not be handled by Nicklaus.
This is the first time Nicklaus has a maternity ward.
Typically, a mother in Miami-Dade County would deliver a high-risk infant at a hospital like Jackson Memorial, which has a Level 3 neonatology unit at its Holtz Children’s Hospital, the highest level in the state.
Or she may deliver at another hospital, and the baby would have to be transferred to a hospital with an advanced neonatal unit.
Paul and Sagri, who did not want to give their last name, planned to deliver their quadruplets in the Fetal Care Center at Nicklaus, as the new unit is called. But Sagri went into labor and delivered the girls on May 30 at South Miami Hospital, nearly two weeks before Nicklaus’ unit opened. South Miami Hospital also has a Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Because the quadruplets were born in the 28th week of Sagri’s pregnancy— the average full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks, although it’s typically shorter for multiple births — they were transferred after about a month to Nicklaus and its new Fetal Care Center.
The babies have developmental challenges—including their low weight and breathing — to overcome.
Since transferring to Nicklaus, Diana, Gabriela, Alicia and Lucia no longer need a ventilator to breath and are growing by the day, now weighing around 3 pounds.
“It’s so exciting to see them working on just getting bigger and learning how to eat and growing out of the very intense NICU care behind them,” said Dr. Saima Aftab, medical director of the Fetal Care Program at Nicklaus.
Nicklaus officials say the center was necessary so families who had babies requiring intensive medical care didn’t have to transport them after birth — by ambulance or by air — to their hospital, delaying the baby’s care.
“As a mother, can you imagine being separated from your baby minutes after birth? And not having any clue of what’s going on? And, to top that off, having your baby need to have surgery in another hospital in another part of the city?” said Aftab.
Nicklaus built the center after Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law in 2013 that authorized the 10-bed unit.
Opponents in the Florida Legislature had argued that nearby Miami hospitals, especially Jackson Memorial, were better equipped to treat mothers with high-risk pregnancies. They also said there wasn’t evidence that transporting infants caused them harm.
The bill eventually passed in both chambers, after it was bundled with other provisions that legislators wanted.
Holtz Children’s Hospital houses a 126-bed, Level 3 neonatology unit. Nicklaus has a 40-bed Level 3 unit.
Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital’s neonatal unit is housed on the second floor of Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood. On the same floor is the labor and delivery unit. The 84-bed unit has 62 Level 3 beds.
“We essentially have Level 4 maternity services, but that level isn’t recognized in Florida,” said Dr. Laurie Scott, medical director of Maternal Fetal Health Services for Memorial Health System.
“Regardless of how complicated the mom or infant is, they don’t have to be separated from each other and are located right down the hall from each other.”
Nicklaus says its new center, coupled with its neonatal unit, provides a need in the community.
“When we were planning the unit, we made sure to travel to every fetal care center around the country to make sure we are not only similar but better,” said Aftab. “We believe that the capacity of our unit is good to support what we expect is the volume of need for the next five years. If things continue to go well, we have plans for us to continue to grow.”
Though Paul and Sagri were happy with the care they received at South Miami Hospital, they said they are grateful for the team at Nicklaus.
“They show empathy and you need that. You need people to be there because this is a long process,” said Paul. “They have angels working here. At Nicklaus, you feel like you’re at home.”