Mott’s Brandon NICU celebrates 50 years of service this National NICU Awareness Day

Approximately a 4-minute read

Key takeaways:

  • Today is National NICU Awareness Day, and this year, the organization is celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the Brandon NICU.
  • The NICU is the organization’s largest ICU with 59 beds, while serving the smallest patients, some weighing less than a pound.
  • As one team member said: “We have over 300 people who come to the same space, every day, with the same goals and the same mission, to care for our patients and do whatever it takes to keep them safe.”  

Today is National NICU Awareness Day, but this year is a special milestone for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital’s Brandon NICU: 50 years of serving the Littlest Victors and their families.

“Before we became a NICU, we had a small four-bed ICU nursery in the old main hospital,” said Barb Lanese, the head nurse manager for the unit back in 1965.

“It was very different back then,” she said. “We only had adult equipment that we adapted to babies. At that time, babies that were 34 weeks gestation were lucky to make it, compared to now when babies are born at 22- or 23-weeks gestation and grow into strong children.”

Lanese retired in 1996, but she was there every step of the way as the ICU progressively grew into the NICU it is today.

“In 1967 we moved into Mott, or what is considered the old Mott now today, where we had a six-bed ICU and we were getting a little better in terms of equipment and technology,” she said.

Then in 1972, the unit officially became a neonatal intensive care unit.

“We moved into the Holden unit, which was adjacent to high-risk delivery rooms,” Lanese said. “We were already transporting babies from around the region, but then in the early ’80s we also started helicopter transports.”

She said it wasn’t just the locations and bed numbers that increased over the years.

“Of course, the technology evolved all along and with everything we did, which meant our survival rates became greater, too.”

Lanese’s greatest memories from her time in the Holden NICU include the establishment of ECMO care under Robert Bartlett, M.D., two generations of babies from the same family born in the NICU and the largest birth the unit had ever had: quadruplets.

“You always remember all of your patients as babies, even if they aren’t babies anymore!” she said.

When Lanese retired in 1996, the unit was up to 37 beds.

Brandon NICU today

When the new C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital building was opened in 2011, it brought additional expansion of the NICU once again. The unit is now called the Brandon NICU on the Holden Floor.

“We are the largest ICU in Michigan Medicine with 59 beds, but we have the smallest sized patients, some weighing less than a pound (which is 453.592 grams to be exact),” said Michele Martin, clinical nursing director of the Brandon NICU.

“We have over 300 people who come to the same space, every day, with the same goals and the same mission, to care for our patients and do whatever it takes to keep them safe,” she said. “Team Brandon is like none other.”

In addition to remarkable patient care, the NICU team also provides services to families that support the patient experience and make them feel a part of the NICU family.

Babies and families in the NICU are always welcomed to celebrate the holidays (make sure you check back later in the year for their usual adorable Halloween costumes). And the NICU participates in fun contests and opportunities for families throughout the year, including a Kangaroo Care (skin-to-skin contact between the baby and guardian) contest and Readathon against other NICUs across the country.

“We couldn’t do it without all of our providers, nurses, staff, volunteers, parent hosts and everyone who works in our unit,” Martin said.

“Every staff member of Team Brandon has continued to give 110% through COVID-19, through staffing challenges, through high acuity and census, and they still come to work to deliver the same amazing care to our babies every day,” she said. “The dedication and passion for this work that you see on peoples’ faces, even when they are tired, is beyond incredible. They are the team I am proud to work alongside of every day.”

To celebrate National NICU Awareness Day, the team is having a cider and donuts celebration on the unit, and Martin said the team recently celebrated National Neonatal Nurses Day on Sept. 16 with cake.

Congratulations to all our Mott Brandon NICU team members on this special 50-year milestone and thank you for everything you do every day for our Littlest Victors and their families!