Wolfson Children's new tower to help meet growing need for life-saving care

Construction zone in place for Children's Critical Care Tower in Jacksonville

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Wolfson Children's Hospital is expanding its life-saving care by building a new critical care tower.

The addition will help meet the growing need for care for critically ill infants and premature babies in the Southeast region of the United States.

On Monday, mother Lori Moonen talked with News4Jax about her experience giving birth to her daughter, Skylar, three months early.

"The emotions were out of control," Moonen said. "I'll never forget the whole team of NICU in the operating room standing against the wall saying, 'We're going to keep her safe. We're going to make sure she's alright.'"

Skylar was born 19 inches long, and weighing 2 pounds and 1 ounce. She has been at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Wolfson Children's for months while her lungs continue to develop. That comes with around-the-clock monitoring.

Moonen gets limited hands-on time with Skylar, but at first, she couldn't even see her daughter because of her own complications after giving birth and she couldn't leave her room.

"My poor husband -- I kept saying, 'Go down there. Stay with her,'" the mother said. "And then I kept having ups and downs with my health, and he was running back and forth."

That is an issue the new Children's Critical Care Tower will solve. Several rooms will be equipped to house postpartum moms and their infants, providing the critical care they both need. A construction zone is already in place and land has been cleared for this new seven-story building. It will expand the number of NICU and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) beds, which Wolfson Children's President Michael Aubin said is a growing need as they serve families from Georgia and Florida.

"We are in the midst of the biggest delivery period of time in the history of the United States," Aubin said. "The baby boomers bubble is here."

He said that means more older mothers with a higher risk of complications. Currently, most of the NICU is on an open-floor plan with families separated by curtains.

"Gowns, mask, lots of noises, lots of critical patients around," explained Moonen.

The new tower will offer private rooms for families with beds to encourage parents to stay with their babies -- a 75-bed NICU, as well as a 26-bed PICU. Wolfson Children's is the Southeast region's only Neonatal Surgical Center.

Skylar's health continues to progress. Moonen is confident she'll be home with the family soon but said she is thankful for the one-of-a-kind nurses and practitioners at Wolfson Children's and looks forward to the many more young lives saved with the expanded care.