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Many More ‘Preemies’ Now Survive : UCI Center Is Leader in Neonatal Care

Times Staff Writer

A young mother sat in a wooden rocker, softly swaying with a very small, very pink, premature baby.

Nearby, a nurse showed a woman how to reach inside a clear plastic life-support system to touch her premature infant.

A third mother stood over a plastic bubble from which flowed a spaghetti-like mass of air hoses, cords and wires. She watched her son, born prematurely and less than 2 pounds, sleeping inside.

All three women said they had planned to have their babies at other hospitals, but had been diverted to UCI Medical Center because it has special capabilities to care for premature and critically ill newborns. And all three said this place had saved their babies’ lives.

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Dr. Louis Gluck, chief of UCI Medical Center’s neonatology section, said the hospital saves scores of babies each year. Doctors and hospitals throughout the county refer critical cases to the medical center because it has some of the most sophisticated equipment in the world.

‘No Specific Therapy’ Then

“When I was a young doctor, there weren’t many pieces of equipment to help keep premature babies alive,” Gluck said. “We had no specific therapy (in those days). We’d just put them in oxygen, and often, 90% of these premature babies died . . . . There were premature nurseries, and that was about all.”

In his office are some of the devices used 30 years ago, and more, to try to save premature babies. There is a large “baby warming” machine, a monstrosity of brass and other metal. Still, Gluck said, “Those devices saved lives.”

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Today’s machines, some of which Gluck invented, save babies who would have had no chance of surviving even a decade ago.

“Dr. Gluck himself attracts many cases to this hospital,” said one UC official. “He’s extremely well known in his field.”

Medical colleagues say Gluck, 60, who started the nation’s first neonatology department in 1960 at Yale University Hospital, is called “the father of neonatology.”

After 15 years at the UC San Diego Medical Center, Gluck transferred to UCI Medical Center last year. Hospital officials said his presence made an already excellent baby-care facility a nationally recognized one.

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As she rocked her son, Alice Martinez of Santa Ana said, “His name is Michael, and he wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for this hospital.” She had registered to deliver elsewhere but was sent to UCI Medical Center when her labor began too soon.

Joni Camber, 22, of Buena Park, watched her premature son, Derrick Shane, in his incubator. “I was supposed to deliver at St. Jude, but I was sent here instead by ambulance. They have so much good equipment here for preemies.

“I haven’t been worried about my baby because I know this place takes such good care of them. I knew he was in good hands.”

Nearby, Donna Davis, 25, of La Habra, slipped her hands inside special openings in an incubator to touch her tiny daughter, Erin Patrice. She was born 2 1/2 months premature, Davis said.

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Mother’s Testimonial

“This place is excellent,” she said. “I was here for a week before I delivered, and I couldn’t have asked for better care. I was supposed to have the baby at another hospital, but they told me that that hospital couldn’t handle the premature baby. If she had been born there she would have been transferred to Childrens Hospital, and I’d still be at the other hospital. Here, I could stay, have my baby and have it cared for in the same hospital.

“I know if we have another baby, it will be here--by choice next time.”


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