“Would you like to have a look?,” asked Michelle Waddell, director of neonatal services at Golisano Children’s Hospital in south Fort Myers.
Two and three at a time, trustees and donors with the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest steeled themselves for peeks at the 5-day-old infant born at just 23 weeks gestation. They watched in awe as his bird-like chest rose and fell with each puff of air through his intubation tube.
Saturday these same folks will be wielding paddles in a frenzy of bidding for exclusive bottles of wine and once-in-a-lifetime vacations during the Wine & Food Fest’s Grand Tasting & Auction at Miromar Lakes Beach and Golf Club. But on this cool Monday all was quiet as they saw their donations in action, breathing life into the area’s tiniest residents.
The Wine & Food Fest has raised .25 million for SWFL Children’s Charities Inc., a not-for-profit that benefits the Golisano Children’s Hospital, the pediatric nursing program at Edison State College, and the Bower School of Music’s music therapy program at FGCU.
From medical equipment to scholarships for future nurses and therapists, the festival’s millions are hard at work.
Wine Fest funds have purchased 13 GE Healthcare Giraffe OmniBeds for the Children’s Hospital since 2009, the same beds that were cradling, warming and oxygenating NICU babies Monday. Each OmniBed costs more than ,000, and with the Children’s Hospital’s expansion breaking ground this year, more OmniBeds and money are needed.
“Are these the best there is?” asked Wine Fest trustee David Contreras. “Or could we be getting you better?”
“That’s the Bentley,” Waddell answered. “No one holds a candle to these beds.”
A day later and a few miles north at Edison State College, Sim Jr. stopped breathing.
“This is a code blue,” nursing professor Andrea Storrie said raising her voice over the beeping din of alarms.Storrie’s students turned the child-sized simulation mannequin, better known as Sim Jr., on its side in an attempt to clear its rubber-lined airway. The doll, which is meant to replicate the anatomical structures of a 6- to 7-year-old, didn’t respond. Instructing assistant Jeannine Lambert wailed in the corner. She played the role of Sim’s mom, adding more stress to the students’ simulation.
The Wine Fest has raised 0,000 for Edison State’s Pediatric Nursing Program, money that has been used for two scholarships and hospital equipment that keep these simulations realistic.
As students pumped air into Sim Jr., an infant-sized mannequin sat in a hospital crib one room over. Across the hall a mannequin known as Noelle lay with her stomach peeled open, exposing the unborn, mannequin baby she can robotically birth at the push of a button.
“We can recreate various scenarios on a range of problems, a lot of it because of that Wine Fest funding,” said Marie Collins, dean of Edison State’s School of Health Sciences. “It’s the closest thing to being in a real situation without putting actual lives on the line.”
The music plays
Wine Fest trustees have pledged million to FGCU’s Bower School of Music and its upcoming music-therapy program. It’s money the school’s director Cathy Albergo is excited to put to use.
“January of 2014 is when the first of the funds become available to us,” Albergo said. “It’s going to be a tremendous support for the program.”
Albergo and her colleagues are in search of a professor to direct the program. She hopes to hire someone by August, giving them five months to draft a plan for those Wine Fest donations.
“We’re still in the very early stages of this,” Albergo said. “It’s exciting to be moving forward one step at a time.”
Why they do it
Back in the hallways of the Children’s Hospital, Wine Fest auctioneer Scott Robertson admired pictures of the healthy, smiling babies who had started their lives in the NICU’s care.
Robertson’s job is to spur the festival crowd to reach into their pockets come auction time. He tours the hospital before every Wine Fest, pulling inspiration from all those tiny, wiggling toes and soft cries.
“There was a gentleman last year who made the most generous donation, buying multiple Giraffe beds,” Robertson said. “I’m in the middle of the auction, everything going on and the tears just start streaming. You see these babies and you realize, that’s why we do what we do.”