A former storage area at Lawrence Memorial Hospital has been transformed into a special room offering families a way to remain close to their newborns who require an extended stay the hospital.
The Segebrecht Room, which is just a few feet from the hospital nursery, is a private room offering a homelike stay at no charge for the mother when she has been dismissed from the hospital but the baby has to stay, explains Vicki Friede, a registered nurse and director of maternal child nursing at the hospital.
"It's very reassuring to be close to the baby," Mrs. Friede said. "The family can be here. It's really nice."
The room was developed through contributions from the Dr. and Mrs. Steve Segebrecht family of Lawrence and the hospital auxiliary.
The Segebrechts donated funds after their second child, Ray, was born six weeks prematurely in 1987. A few days after birth, he developed breathing problems and was taken by helicopter to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. Mrs. Segebrecht had a Caesarean section so she couldn't go with her baby to the Kansas City hospital.
"IT WAS REALLY awful to hear that helicopter and to know there was a chance I would never see my baby again," she said.
After nine days at Children's Mercy, the baby had improved considerably but still needed hospital care. So he returned to LMH.
"We were glad to be back home," Mrs. Segebrecht said. "We could spend time feeding him, holding him, being with him. At Lawrence, we could do that."
During the baby's six-day stay at LMH, Mrs. Segebrecht would make trips about every three hours from her home to the hospital to feed her son and hold him. At 17 days old and weighing about 4 pounds, Ray was able to go home for the first time with his parents and older brother, Brian.
Until the experience with her son, Mrs. Segebrecht said, she and her family had no idea what parents go through with a sick baby.
"I THOUGHT it would be nice if there was a place where mothers could sleep," Mrs. Segebrecht said. "We were just so thankful that he lived and was healthy and thriving. I never quit being thankful."
Mrs. Segebrecht said she firmly believes that newborns, especially those struggling for their lives during those first crucial days, need nurturing and their mother's touch. And it is also important for babies to have time with new brothers or sisters, she said.
"I can't stress enough Brian got lots of chances to hold Ray," she said of their stay at LMH. "But the only thing lacking was a nice, soft, comfortable place to sit and be a family."
Today the Segebrecht Room offers just that for parents of infants with problems that require extended hospital care. But it's also used by parents of children in less severe situations, such as a mild case of jaundice which can require an extra day or two at the hospital.
"It can be for a variety of reasons," Mrs. Friede said.
PARENTS USE the room to feed and cuddle their infant and to rest between those times with the baby.
With funds from the Segebrechts and the auxiliary, the room includes a couch that folds into a bed, a sink, a rocking chair and other homey furnishings. Window blinds add privacy to the room. And more items continue to be added as needed. Staff members of the Maternity Care Unit planned the room and selected the color scheme and various furnishings.
A journal sits on an end table next to the rocker. It is fillled with entries by mothers who have used the room and have, to some extent, been in the same situation. They have all had to deal with the worries of a sick infant and the emotions that go along with it, including watching mothers of healthy infants leave the hospital only a couple of days after delivery.
"I'm thankful people are using the room," Mrs. Segebrecht said. "It makes us feel really good."