As more women decide to start their families later in life the incidence of high risk pregnancies is on the rise. This is exacerbated by advances in fertility treatments which have increased multiple birth pregnancies.
Such pregnancies are the specialty of Dr. Alessandro Ghidini. But until last Wednesday, only 800 square feet of Inova Alexandria Hospital was dedicated to dealing with these high risk traumatic circumstances in the lives of both mothers and babies.
At 6 p.m. last Wednesday, that changed dramatically. With the dedication of the hospital's newly expanded and upgraded Perinatal Diagnostic Center patients not only have the latest technology to analyze and evaluate their conditions but also staff enjoys 2,300 square feet of examination and working space.
"When they suggested making small improvements to the existing space, I said 'no.' It would only be a waste of money. We needed a new and enlarged area. After all we do 7,000 procedures a year at this hospital in this specialty. And it's growing every year," Ghidini, PDC's medical director said.
"We are a regional center for this medical treatment. A lot of our patients come here from well outside this immediate area. We draw them here all the way from Richmond," he explained.
The new space includes two procedure rooms, three rooms for non-stress tests, and space for additional staff and equipment. The ultrasound machines have been updated with state-of-the-art diagnostic capabilities, according to Beth Visioli, IAH public information.
"As a perinatologist, Dr. Ghidini is dedicated to assisting obstetricians and nurse-midwives in caring for pregnancies at risk for complications to the mother or baby. If a woman has a pre-existing medical condition such as lupus, chronic hypertension or diabetes, she can visit with a perinatologist prior to becoming pregnant, to determine the best ways to manage that condition during the pregnancy," Visioli said.
"It's takes three years of extra medical training to learn how to effectively deal with high risk pregnancies," Ghidini emphasized.
As noted by Kenneth Kozloff, IAH administrator and IHS vice president, immediately prior to the ribbon cutting officially inaugurating the new Center, "We are here to celebrate something that, except for philanthropy, would not have happened." A large part of that gift came from the Suzanne Brock family.
"When I came on the Board of Inova Foundation three years ago I asked to be on the Women and Children Committee. We were given a tour of the area then serving this need and I couldn't believe how small and cramped it was," Brock said.
"Dr. Ghidini is so noted in his field and here he was working in this small area. We immediately took it on as a project to find space in the existing hospital, since it can't expand any further due to zoning restrictions," Brock said. That was accomplished by converting an office/administrative area into the new PDC.
"Thus far, we and Danny Abramson, another member of the board, have raised 90 percent of the funds to cover the costs," Brock said. "This is our big project." Brock pointed out that both her children as well as a grandchild were born at IAH.
"This unit means a great deal to me," Dr. Barry S. Rothman, president, IAH Medical Staff, told the assembled crowd. "This makes our job of delivering babies so much easier."
Dr. David Z. Axelrod, chairman, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, IAH, added, "Now that we have all this space and equipment the next step is to clone Dr. Ghidini."
OVER THE PAST 12 years the Foundation has raised in excess of $13 million in philanthropic gifts, according to Joseph F. Viar, Jr., chairman, IAH Foundation. "What you see here is the product of a lot of wonderful people," he said.
As part of the fundraising effort a newly completed mural, entitled "Family Tree," graces the wall outside the new PDC. It features adult and baby animals in a scenic jungle of leafy vines, flowers and trees.
With a donation of $50 to $5,000, the name and birth date of a new born at IAH, either "yesterday or years ago," can be permanently inscribed within the mural, according to a donation brochure, featuring a part of the mural. It announces the establishment of the Children of Alexandria Fund.
"Each gift, in honor or in memory of someone born at IAH, will help support the relocation and enlargement of the Perinatal Diagnostic Center so mothers and infants can continue to receive the best care possible," the brochure states. Each year more than 3,000 babies are born at IAH.
Joining well-wishers, supporters and hospital staff for the ceremony were Virginia State Senator Patricia S. Ticer (D-30); Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille; Alexandria Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper; and City Councilman Rob Krupicka.