In 1988, during a routine pregnancy ultrasound, Lynne and Bill Garbose received devastating news: Their first baby, Emily, would be born with a very rare and fatal heart defect. She would require the most sophisticated level of care immediately after birth. The only option, they were told, was for Lynne to deliver the baby in a hospital near their home in Washington, DC, and then have Emily transported to the pediatric hospital 30 minutes across town.
“I was stunned to learn that I could not deliver this very sick baby at the children’s hospital,” recalled Lynne. “In fact, I learned that nowhere in the country could a pediatric institution handle the care of an adult obstetrical patient.”
In the days following delivery, as Lynne recovered from her C-section, only able to leave her bed for a few hours each day to visit Emily, Bill shuttled back and forth across town, desperately trying to balance his time between his wife and his child. Three days after her birth, while Lynne was back in her hospital bed, Emily passed away in Bill’s arms.
Back then, it would have been hard for the Garboses to believe that something good would come out of that experience.
But after returning to the Philadelphia area, where Lynne grew up, and becoming active supporters of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, they met pediatric and fetal surgeon N. Scott Adzick, MD, director of Children’s Hospital’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment. Adzick told them about his vision to create a delivery unit within the Center for women carrying babies with known birth defects.
“It was so on target with what we had experienced, and we knew there was a real void,” Lynne says.
The Garboses generously provided the lead gift to create the Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit (SDU), the first comprehensive birth facility housed in a pediatric hospital for women carrying babies with known birth defects, which opened within the Center in June 2008. Mother, baby and family are in one space for labor, birth and the postpartum experience, and families take comfort knowing that the most advanced intensive care units and operative facilities are within steps of their delivery rooms.
Shortly after the SDU opened, Lynne got to see her gift in action. She was present for the delivery and surgery of Angus Schwarz, Amy and Marc Schwarz’s third child, prenatally diagnosed with an omphalocele, a life-threatening abdominal wall defect.
Watching the Schwarzes’ experience in the SDU was “the thrill of a lifetime,” says Lynne.
After delivery, as Amy recovered from her C-section, nurses from the Harriet and Ronald Lassin Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit brought Angus to her room so she could see him.
Twenty-four hours later, surgeons successfully closed the opening in Angus’ abdomen. By day two Amy was able to nurse him, and just four days after delivery, mother and baby left the Hospital together.
“It was remarkable that a couple who would be under significant stress in any other setting, in any other hospital, could have a happy, joyful experience in the birth of this child,” Lynne says.
The families have been in touch ever since and reconnected at the Center’s annual family reunion in June 2009.
More than 1,680 families have delivered in the SDU since its opening. Lynne has met some of these families at past reunions of The Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment. The Fetal Family Reunion occurs each June.
“It’s really been a great thing to connect with people who used the unit and got the benefit of it,” Lynne says. “Deepening our connection to CHOP in this way has multiplied many times the satisfaction we already feel as donors.”