10 Years, Thousands of Families

Published on in Children's View

Imagine having to choose who to be with — your newborn daughter, who is dying, or your wife, who is grieving across town. That is the choice Bill Garbose faced in 1988. He and his wife, Lynne, had learned early in their pregnancy that their first child, Emily, had a very rare and fatal heart defect. Emily was born in an adult hospital, but she had to be transported to a children’s hospital 30 minutes away for care. Tragically, she did not survive.

Each year in the United States, routine ultrasounds or OB-GYN visits reveal birth defects in approximately 120,000 unborn babies. After their own experience, the Garboses resolved to spare as many families as possible from having to endure a painful separation from their precious baby.

Years after their devastating loss, the couple partnered with N. Scott Adzick, MD, MMM, and Lori J. Howell, DNP, MS, RN, co-founders of CHOP’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment, to create the Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit (SDU). The SDU is the world’s first birthing unit in a freestanding children’s hospital dedicated exclusively to healthy mothers carrying babies with severe or life-threatening birth defects.

Designed for complex births

In addition to the standard labor and delivery rooms found in an adult hospital, the SDU includes state-of-the-art surgical facilities for lifesaving intervention before, during and immediately after delivery and is close to CHOP’s top-notch Harriet and Ronald Lassin Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit and Evelyn and Daniel M. Tabas Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. Its team of surgeons, physicians, nurses and psychosocial staff is deeply dedicated to normalizing the birth experience for families despite the extreme complications surrounding many of these pregnancies.

Since opening 10 years ago, the SDU has kept more than 3,600 families together when they needed each other most and given each baby the best possible opportunity for a bright future. And the Garboses continue to support breakthroughs at CHOP, most recently by funding an endowed research fellowship that will cultivate the next generation of fetal medicine experts.

By the numbers

The impact of the Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit:

  • In its first year, there were 205 births in the SDU; now, nearly 500 babies are born in the unit annually.
  • The unit has grown from eight to 13 beds.
  • More than 500 minimally invasive procedures and 200 open fetal surgeries have been performed in the SDU since 2008.
  • Families have come to the SDU from all 50 states and more than 70 countries.