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Angel's Story - FMH NICU Graduate


Angel Baron and her 13-year-old brother Kaden, who also received care in the FMH Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, attended the program’s annual reunion in May. Pictured with their mother Paul Kifer.

Nearly 2,700 babies are born every year in Frederick County, and the vast majority of them are healthy and well. But for families whose newest members begin life earlier than anticipated, or with significant medical challenges, the Billy Miller Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Frederick Memorial Hospital provides considerable peace of mind.

One parent whose newborn son was cared for in the hospital’s NICU said, “It’s the worst day of your life when you have to leave your child at the hospital, but at least you have the comfort of knowing you’re leaving them in great hands.”

The FMH NICU opened as a Level II Special Care Nursery in 1998. A partnership with Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, one of the nation’s leaders in pediatric research and neonatal care, the original Special Care Nursery cared for infants born at more than 32 weeks gestation. For the first time, premature babies who needed special services such as ventilators or respirators, supplemental oxygen, intravenous drugs or life-saving fluids could be cared for at FMH, saving thousands of families a long, heart-wrenching commute and additional stress at an already difficult and emotional time.

One of the first newborns to be cared for in the FMH Special Care Nursery—now the Billy Miller NICU– was Angel Baron. Shortly after her birth, Angel developed a fever, the result of amniotic fluid she breathed in while in the birth canal which filled her lungs. Angel’s mother, Paula Kifer, credits the grace of God and a quick intervention from then-NICU Medical Director Dr. Marilea Miller for saving her newborn daughter’s life. After a week on oxygen and intensive, loving care from the neonatology team, Angel Baron went home.

Over the past 18 years, Angel’s mother says her red-headed daughter has suffered no ill effects from her rough start in life—another blessing for which she is quick to applaud the FMH NICU team. In addition to being artistically gifted, Angel is also a strong swimmer—strong enough to lifeguard at Frederick’s busy Baker Park pool in the summers.

As Angel Baron was growing, so has the scope of services provided at FMH to premature, low birthweight and seriously ill infants. For more than a decade and a half, FMH and Johns Hopkins have continued to work together to expand the level and complexity of services offered. Recently, our NICU achieved Level III status, and was approved by the state of Maryland to care for extremely low birth weight (ELBW) and very low birth weight (VLBW) babies on a regular basis. These categories include infants as low as 24 weeks gestation and weighing just 500 grams.

Angel and her 13-year-old brother Kaden were among the dozens of program “graduates” who returned this year for the NICU annual reunion on May 1 at Middletown Park. Guests also included several sets of twin graduates, and a set of triplets who were cared for last summer in the NICU. Despite the cold, damp weather, the event was attended by dozens of children and young adults who—like Angel and Kaden– showed few if any signs that they once needed the NICU’s care. Graduates enjoyed bean bag and ring tosses, mini-golf and wiffle ball, along with music, refreshments and other activities while their parents talked with one other and reconnected with NICU staff.

These children and their families are now a part of the story FMH has been writing since we began operating as a Special Care Nursery in 1998. Like the thousands that came before them, their stories are testaments to the resilience of these infants, the love and dedication of their families, and the superb skill of our neonatology team.

To learn more about the Billy Miller NICU at FMH, as well as our BirthPlace, click here.


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