Caring for Fragile Babies
Now at the age of 84, he’s still taking care of babies at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, and showing no signs of stopping. He started at Stanford in the 1950s when the university’s School of Medicine was located in San Francisco.
Over the years, his accomplishments have helped shape modern-day neonatal care. For example, he was on the team that implemented the first mechanical ventilation system for premature babies. He discovered a rare and deadly metabolic disorder and he’s the originator of a scoring system for selecting infants needing assisted ventilation.
He currently works in the Packard Intermediate Care Nursery, where he checks in on recovering babies that are out of the critical stage, but not quite ready to go home.
When he’s not working, he spends time with his wife, Beth, five adult children and six grandchildren.
Sunshine recently spoke to Bay Area Parent about what keeps him going and how his field has changed over the years.
How has neonatology changed since you started?
One of the biggest changes is obstetric care of women who are either at risk because of their problems or they are carrying a baby that is at risk. The care given to those mothers has improved remarkably. When I started my residency, there were babies with so many problems there wasn’t much you could do for them. Here at Stanford, I think it was 1960 or ’61, we started an intensive care nursery. Then in ’62, we got a grant that provided research on premature infants. We studied how their brains matured, how they responded to drugs and a lot of other things that really changed how we care for them.
We were one of the first centers to start using assisted ventilation. There was a time where if a baby couldn’t breath, they would succumb. The mortality rate was about 50 percent. …Now we have these beautiful ventilators that can give us anything we want. We can keep smaller babies alive.
What do you love most about your job?
I like interacting with the families and telling them how to take care of their babies. I like making sure they have good follow-up.
Do you have any special memories?
The first baby we had on a ventilator I remember very well. I followed up with her after she left the hospital and I used to call her family every couple of years.
Are you ever going to retire?
When I get up and I don’t want to go to work anymore, I’ll retire. Now I’m interacting with some very brightest people and that is always exciting.
Teresa Mills-Faraudo is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent.