East Tennessee Children’s Hospital moves babies into new NICU


KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Wednesday was a big day for some tiny babies at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit spent the morning moving all the babies into the new NICU at the hospital which offers some big changes for babies and their families.

One of those babies is Lydia. She was born in April and is now just about seven pounds. She has come a long way from her birthday.

“I had her at 26 weeks,” said her mother, Amanda Patterson. “She weighed one pound.”

Lydia has spent every day since then in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

“When I did see her she was in this box and I couldn’t hold her. All I could do was touch her finger and she was so tiny,” Patterson said.

While she is not leaving the hospital just yet, Wednesday was moving day for all the NICU babies. The hospital opened the NICU in the new Scripps Networks Tower.

“Being in a NICU is a stressful thing. There’s no way around that, but a lot of work has gone into making this as stress-free for families as we can,” said Dr. John Buchheit.

What makes the new NICU unique is instead of the traditional “open bay” style with babies all in the same room, each baby in this NICU has his or her own room. Twenty-seven babies were transported one-by-one Wednesday into their new rooms.

“Each baby is moving with a team–doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, technicians,” said Dr. Buchheit.

Families can now visit any time of day with privacy and personal care.

“Very important for them to be able to stay and for us to have that almost constant communication with them so that they know what’s going on and we’re all partnering to care for their child,” said NICU Nurse Manager Tracie Savage.

That is something that makes a big difference for Patterson.

“Just be with them and change their diaper in the middle of the night and give them a bottle. It’s something that we haven’t ever been able to do,” she said.

Each room is equipped with everything the baby needs, a fold out couch for family and natural light filtering in. Nurses say that helps the baby’s brain development. Wednesday was the first day baby Lydia has ever soaked in the sun.

“She’s just mesmerized by the window, and that’s wonderful. That’s something that she’s never experienced before, and so it just makes me teary-eyed thinking here she is. She’s going to be growing and thriving more now,” she said.

The facility also allows sibling visitation which has never been done before at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. It is beneficial so brothers and sisters can build bonds early on.

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