November 11, 2013

It’s twins! New Alfond Center for Health welcomes newborns and others

Just hours after the facility opens, premature twins are born, while other patients praise the center.

By Keith Edwards
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — The first baby born at the new Alfond Center for Health was followed, one minute later, by her twin brother.

click image to enlarge

Nurse Julie Smithson, right, lifts day-old infant Hannah Veilleux away from her twin, Samuel, attended by nurse Tracey Thornton, at MaineGeneral’s new neonatal intensive care unit in Augusta on Sunday. The siblings, born five weeks early, are the first babies born at the new hospital.

Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

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MaineGeneral rehabilitation patient Tom King of Shawmut said on Sunday that the previous day’s move to the new hospital in Augusta was flawless. His private room has a view of the courtyard.

Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

And if Hannah and Samuel Veilleux had been born just one day earlier, before the move of the maternity department to the new hospital from MaineGeneral hospitals in Augusta and Waterville, the tiny, pink-skinned twins and their parents likely would have had to be transferred to Portland or another hospital.

That’s because the babies of Tim and Nikkia Veilleux of Waterville were born five weeks early, and required the care available in the new hospital’s Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a unit that was not available either at the old MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta or Thayer Center for Health in Waterville. The unit, staffed by specially trained nurses and certified pediatricians, is for babies born premature after 34 weeks, who, hospital officials said, generally require advanced care and close monitoring.

“I really didn’t want to go to Portland. It’s just too far away from Isaiah,” new mom Nikkia Veilleux said of being in Augusta, where they are closer to their 7-year-old son. “We’re closer to home here. It’s easier for everybody.”

The couple came to the new hospital Saturday, at first thinking they were just coming for a checkup, after Nikkia’s blood pressure climbed. They arrived around 9:30 a.m., just a few hours after the new, $312 million facility opened. At 3:14 Saturday afternoon, Hannah was born, followed at 3:15 by her twin brother, Samuel.

They’re doing well, Tim Veilleux said.

On Sunday, Nikkia’s parents, Robert and Darus Vear, visited the couple and Hannah in their room. Samuel was just down the hall, still in the neonatal care unit. The two babies were together briefly and turned toward each other as they were placed side by side. Hannah, silent next to her brother, cried when they were separated.

“They’re more comfortable together than they are apart,” noted nurse Jennifer Riggs.

There were a few glitches with being among the first patients in a new hospital. The Vears said they had a hard time getting through the locked door to the maternity wing, and when Nikkia pushed a button seeking a nurse, it set off an emergency alarm that brought staff rushing to the room. But the family raved about the care they’ve received, the gleaming new building and the caring staff.

On Sunday, the hospital’s visitor parking lot was about half full with cars, and about 130 patients were inside, a slight increase from the 120 patients moved into the facility from Thayer and the old Augusta hospital in a closely coordinated patient moving day Saturday.

Among the patients moved from Thayer was Tom King, 73, of Shawmut, who was hospitalized due to a stroke three weeks ago and is undergoing rehabilitation at the new hospital. He was driven with other patients in a van, and saw the hospital for the first time as he was moved in.

His first thought when he saw the new facility: “Wow.”

“I have a beautiful room, and you can see how nice the view is,” King said Sunday, gesturing out the large window of his private room, overlooking gardens, fountains and a small pond, while his wife of nearly 54 years, Deanna, sat next to him. “I’ve been in hospitals from Boston to Portland, and never seen anything like this. I think it’s wonderful. I’d rather be home, of course. But I’ve got my wife with me, so I’ve got everything.”

A nurse on the rehabilitation unit, Shari Mather, said the move went so smoothly “it was like pushing the easy button.”

While it may not have all been easy, hospital officials said the move did go smoothly, and well ahead of schedule.

Sherri Woodward, senior vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer, said there were a few snags but nothing major.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

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