4/7/2016 Inside Look in the Clements NICU
Marquitta Smith watches over her son Parker in the
In the Palm of Their Hands – An Inside Look at UTSW’s
Loving and Nurturing Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Pictured from left: Parker Smith. NICU Team: Dr. Becky Ennis, Laura Davies, Capri Neurohr, Charlie Scott, Katrina Kypreos, Jennifer Rickerson, Jenni
Squiers, Nina Kwon, Jill Brown, Helen Philip, Precious Osuoho, Aziza Young, Trevor Shin, Jeanette Coleman.
Marquitta Smith was disoriented. Her newborn son, Parker, wasn’t crying. The nurses in her room were talking in rapid,
hushed voices. Her husband, Perry, stared at something out of her line of sight. She didn’t know that he was praying as a
doctor performed CPR on their 1pound, 7ounce baby.
The night before, Mr. Smith had taken his wife, then six months pregnant,
on a dinner and a movie date. After dinner, Ms. Smith felt discomfort in her
stomach. “It’s probably gas,” she’d thought.
The next morning, as she dressed for church, the pain returned.
Concerned, Mr. Smith convinced her to let him drive her to UT
Southwestern’s St. Paul University Hospital. While in the car, a violent
wave of pain overwhelmed her. Something was wrong.
For the first six months, Ms. Smith’s pregnancy with her second child had
been wonderful. But on Sept. 21, 2014, her blood pressure was
skyrocketing and her baby’s heartbeat was fading. She was rushed into
surgery for an emergency cesarean section.
Two days later, when Ms. Smith’s mind had cleared from the medication, a nurse told her that Parker was stable but still had
a long road ahead of him. It was three weeks before Ms. Smith could hold Parker and about four months until she took her
“miracle baby” home.
Parker was one of the first infants transferred from St. Paul Hospital to the new William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital’s
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The stateoftheart facility in Clements Hospital is part of a broad UT Southwestern
Neonatal Division whose faculty provides care at Children’s Medical Center, Parkland Memorial Hospital and Texas Health
Resources Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.
Home » Services » Internal Communications » Campus Connect » 2016 » In the Palm of Their Hands – An Inside Look at UTSW’s Loving and Nurturing
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
4/7/2016 Inside Look in the Clements NICU
Baby Parker was born at 1pound, 7 ounces. His mother,
Marquitta Smith, says he's progressing wonderfully.
Medical Director of the NICU Dr. Becky Ennis and Nurse
Manager Aziza Young.
It Takes a Village
While premature birth (less than 37 weeks of gestation) is the primary
reason an infant is transferred to the NICU, fullterm babies with low birth
weight, breathing difficulties, anomalies and infections are also admitted.
Taking care of an infant in the NICU requires a large team of physicians,
nurses, respiratory specialists, administrative support, dieticians, and
more. The daily rounds are multidisciplinary and the parents are invited to
attend and ask questions and provide their own feedback and perspective
of the infant’s progress.
Nurse Manager Aziza Young has worked in the NICU at UTSW for 35
years. She says that every day, she’s in awe of the level of care her team
“The nurses give so much of themselves to take care of these babies and
their families and it goes above and beyond normal hospital care,” Ms.
Young said. “Some of the babies are here for up to five months and there’s
a real emotional connection that develops – they become like family.”
The role of a NICU nurse is multifaceted and complex. They care for delicate infants that fit in the palm of their hand. They
serve as therapists for frantic mothers and heartbroken families. When the babies are stable, they teach nervous mothers
how to take over their care. They project infinite patience and kindness as they answer endless questions, sometime for the
fourth or fifth time. They’re detectives, figuring out why a baby won’t eat or is suddenly irritable.
Ms. Smith remembers when she was able to hold Parker for the first time. For weeks she’d gazed at him through glass,
trying to imagine him without the wires and breathing tubes, longing to form a connection. Now it was time, and she was
“The nurses were so patient with me,” Ms. Smith said. “They never made me feel like I was going to hurt him and they
encouraged me to hold him, to change his diaper. They made me feel like he was my baby. They made me feel like I was his
A fulltime elementary school teacher, Ms. Smith would rush to the NICU
after work to see Parker. She says her whole life was put on hold. As
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day passed, she ached to have
him at home. What helped her to cope was the knowledge that he was
surrounded by a wonderful NICU staff.
“I could sense by the way they looked at him that they loved him,” Ms.
Smith said, her voice cracking with emotion. “They took care of him like he
was their own son. I felt like Parker was their child, too."
Ms. Young says the relationship lives on long after the babies go home.
Parents often bring the babies back to the NICU to visit, along with gifts for
the nursing team. The nurses also receive letters, cards and graduation
invitations from the children. During Ms. Young’s 35year career, she’s had
some of her “babies” return to introduce her to their own babies. Every
year, many of the families return to the Clements Hospital NICU to attend
a superherothemed baby reunion, which is organized by Nurse Miosotis
Torres, who herself was a premature baby born at UTSW, 33 years ago.
Dr. Becky Ennis, Medical Director of the NICU, says that her wonderful staff also receives a lot of support from many exciting
new technologies and programs.
Since moving to Clements Hospital, the NICU now has a nutrition room with a dedicated dietician, a permanent pharmacist,
a neonatal hypothermia program, and they are able to offer the option of neonatal organ donation to several families. There