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School of Medicine Alliance anniversary gifts warm babies inside and out

SMASince 1985, mothers and their newborn babies from families in need have taken with them a hand-made layette and a book for the journey home. The gifts come from the OHSU School of Medicine Alliance’s Blankets and Books for Babies program, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, and benefits families discharged from OHSU and a selected number of other Portland locations. 

“Blankets and Books for Babies is a patchwork of heart-warming stories,” said Jodi Karr, president of the School of Medicine Alliance. “It brings together volunteers from the Alliance, from the School and from community programs who knit or sew blankets, caps and booties to help mothers and newborns at a time when they most need it.”

In celebration of the program’s 25th anniversary, the Alliance recently presented a check for over $15,000 to the Doernbecher Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The money will be used to purchase 15 breast milk warmers and two breast milk pumps for use in the unit.

“Premature infants are particularly at risk for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) – a condition where intestinal tissue simply dies off,” said Robert Schelonka, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Head, Division of Neonatology, at the Alliance’s Fall Luncheon. “Fifteen percent of premature infants will contract it, and 30 percent of them will die. Those who do survive will be at risk for poor outcomes later in life. Providing breast milk from the mother reduces the chances of the baby contracting NEC from 15 percent to two percent, and this is what is driving our goal to provide human milk for all babies at OHSU who are at risk for NEC.”

BBBThe Alliance gift will enable each pod in the NICU to have its own warmer, which is specially programmed to heat frozen human milk to the optimal temperature. “Once the infants are out of immediate danger, proper nutrition is key to their successful growth,” said Dr. Schelonka. “If the milk is over-warmed or improperly warmed, much of the benefit is lost.” The breast milk pumps are also programmed to stimulate milk production in mothers of premature babies.

“This is a gift that truly commemorates the original spirit of the BBB project in providing for babies in need,” said Alliance President Jodi Karr. “Babies at OHSU will benefit, and since the Doernbecher NICU provides the only pediatric training in the state for students and residents, we hope that the benefits of this gift will also travel with tomorrow’s health care professionals as they pursue their careers.”

View SMA Blankets and Books for Babies photo album

Visit the SMA web page for more information on the School of Medicine Alliance

Pictured: (top) Alliance President Jodi Karr presents the check to Dr. Robert Schelonka; (bottom) Alliance members with blankets donated to the program.

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