Hempfield baby first to benefit from breathing aid, donated milk at Greensburg hospital

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Newborn Ayla Wirth’s arrival early Tuesday and continued presence at Excela Westmoreland Hospital was a blessing for her parents and a major advance on more than one front for the Greensburg facility’s Special Care Nursery.

Ayla weighed 5 pounds, 12 ounces when she was delivered just before 5 a.m. — five weeks before she was expected by her parents, Ian and Samantha Wirth of Hempfield.

When the tiny girl needed help with her breathing, she might have faced a trip to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to be fitted with an invasive ventilator tube. Instead, she was able to stay close to her mother, and she was breathing unaided after less than 24 hours of much gentler assistance with a noninvasive bubble Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, system.

The system was brought online just two weeks earlier at the Excela Westmoreland Family Additions Maternity Center.

“I didn’t know they hadn’t used it on anyone before,” said Ian, who is a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at the affiliated Excela Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant. “They put her on it, and, sure enough, the amount of (supplemental) oxygen she needed, within hours, was coming down.”

“How wonderful it was to be able to be in the same county as my daughter after she was born,” said Samantha, a teacher at Armbrust Wesleyan Christian Academy. “It’s just amazing.”

The maternity center’s two new bubble CPAP devices are a “game-changer,” said Diane Shope, respiratory care supervisor at Excela Westmoreland. “We’re ecstatic that we can offer this. We’ll be able to keep babies in the community, so they can be with their families and they don’t need to travel to Pittsburgh.”

Shope explained: When a baby is born prematurely, their lungs aren’t developed as well they would be for a full-term baby. With the CPAP device, she said, Ayla’s “breathing settled down within 10 to 15 minutes, and then her oxygen level went up, her heart rate came down, and it was just a ‘go’ from there.”

A ventilation tube can create trauma and increase the risk of infection for an infant, Shope said. The CPAP device uses two short nasal prongs to deliver humidified oxygen while creating bubbles and airway pressure oscillations that “pop open” air sacs in the lungs, she said.

“The bubble CPAP did a lot, but we had tons of family and friends praying for us,” Ian said. “This is our little miracle baby.”

1st use of milk bank

In another first for the Excela Special Care Nursery, it obtained donated “bridge” breast milk for Ayla from the Pittsburgh-based Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank.

As is the case with many mothers who deliver a baby prematurely, Samantha needed more time to fully develop her breast milk, explained Dr. Andrea Willeitner, a neonatologist, board-certified lactation consultant and medical director of the Special Care Nursery.

“Pre-term babies who are breastfed are less likely to develop intestinal infections than are babies who are formula-fed,” Willeitner said, adding that formula doesn’t provide the antibodies that are transmitted to the infant through breast milk.

On Friday, Samantha was “pretty much feeding (Ayla) on her own,” Ian said, and the couple was preparing to take their daughter home the following day.

Samantha would like to pay it forward by becoming a breast milk donor.

“I didn’t know it was a thing,” she said. “Now I want to be a part of it.”

The nonprofit milk bank in Pittsburgh provides pasteurized donor breast milk to facilities and families in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. An affiliated milk bank depot is located at Excela Square at Norwin, in North Huntingdon.

More than 1,260 babies are delivered annually at Excela Westmoreland’s maternity center. About 10% of those newborns require some type of intervention or special nursery care, hospital officials note.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .

2287530 web1 gtr ExcelaNeonatal003 021020 - Hempfield baby first to benefit from breathing aid, donated milk at Greensburg hospital

Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review

Samantha Wirth of Hempfield holds her newborn daughter, Ayla, who was born five weeks early, on Friday at Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg.

2287530 web1 gtr ExcelaNeonatal001 021020 - Hempfield baby first to benefit from breathing aid, donated milk at Greensburg hospital

Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review

Respiratory Care Supervisor Diane Shope (left) talks about the new Bubble CPAP they used for the first time on baby Ayla, who was born five weeks early, during an interview with parents Ian Wirth and his wife, Samantha, at Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg on Friday.

2287530 web1 gtr ExcelaNeonatal002 021020 - Hempfield baby first to benefit from breathing aid, donated milk at Greensburg hospital

Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review

Parents Ian and Samantha Wirth of Hempfield Township talk about their newborn daughter, Ayla, who was born five weeks early, during an interview at Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg on Friday.

 

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