News release by Franciscan Health:

CROWN POINT, Indiana – When Shannon Nowak-Johnson was diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy, she knew she needed to deliver at a hospital with a highly-skilled neonatal intensive care unit.

Doctors referred the 31-year-old Hammond woman to Franciscan Physician Network OBGYN John Monk, DO and Franciscan Physician Network high-risk maternal fetal medicine OBGYN Mark A. Kalchbrenner, DO so she could deliver at Franciscan Health Crown Point.

Franciscan Health Crown Point and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago in the fall of 2022 launched a new partnership that brings one of the nation’s top neonatology programs to Northwest Indiana. Lurie Children’s neonatologists now staff the 20-bed Level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Franciscan Health Crown Point, caring for the most vulnerable babies and their families close to home.

“It’s about leveraging the resources of an academic center at a community site with the most up to date, cutting edge care available,” said Brett Galley, MD, a Lurie Children’s Hospital neonatologist practicing at Franciscan Health Crown Point. “Knowing there’s a high level, capable NICU in your own back yard makes a big difference for families.”

On Sept. 9, 2022, just 28 weeks and four days into her pregnancy, Nowak-Johnson woke up to her water breaking and went to Franciscan Health Crown Point for an emergency cesarean section. Baby Haylee weighed just 2 pounds 13 ounces at birth and was taken to the NICU where she was under the care of Dr. Galley and his team.

Nowak-Johnson and Haylee’s Dad, Blake Hallett, were able to have skin-to-skin contact with baby Haylee soon after her birth and stayed with her in the NICU for nine days straight.

“Having parents at the baby’s bedside is critical,” Dr. Galley said. “Those babies do better. It’s so much less stress on families and it’s critical to babies’ development.”

A week later, Haylee’s parents got a call they’ll never forget.

“She decided breathing was hard and she was really sick,” Nowak-Johnson said. “They had to do chest compressions and intubated her at that point. The nurses who weren’t on Haylee were on us right away telling us what was happening and what they were doing. It really started to feel like family. They kept our sanity.”

Nowak-Johnson said the NICU staff provided compassionate care for her entire family.

“When you’re in the NICU, you miss all of those firsts but they made sure they made it special,” Nowak-Johnson said. “They made little footprint crafts for Halloween.  They took pictures on days when she was just being extra cute. It made me feel like they weren’t just doing rounds and going away. It really felt like family.”

After 84 days in the NICU, Haylee was able to go home with her parents in early December.

“She’s doing really well,” Nowak-Johnson said. “She’s going to start some physical therapy and she just found her voice, is cooing and screeching. She’s 12 pounds now.”

Dr. Galley credits the Lurie/Franciscan team in the NICU with Haylee’s success.

“With Haylee’s sudden decomposition when she was one week old, having a highly skilled team here to take care of her was critical because she needed that care in a split second,” Dr. Galley said.

Joining Dr. Galley and the Franciscan Health Crown Point NICU team are Lurie Children’s neonatologists Maysan Alshaar, MD; Pankaj Chhangani, MD, Mario Sanchez, MD, Sergei Kishkurno, MD, Alexandra Wilson, MD, Deepika Kakkera, MD, and Corryn Greenwood, MD.

“Franciscan Health Crown Point is thrilled to partner with Lurie Children’s to support the exceptional care we have provided to infants and their families for more than a decade,” Franciscan Health Crown Point President and CEO Daniel McCormick, MD, said. “This partnership supports our mission, ministry and the Franciscan values we live daily through compassionate care and respect for life. We thank the team at Lurie’s for their support.”

Tom Shanley, MD, president & CEO of Lurie Children’s, echoed Dr. McCormick’s sentiments.

“Lurie Children’s is excited to partner with Franciscan Health Crown Point on creating a regional center of excellence for neonatology in Northwest Indiana,” Dr. Shanley said. “Infants and their families receive the highest level of care, with access to expertise from a network of more than 1,800 of Lurie Children’s specialists for phone consults, with the convenience of remaining close to their homes.”

More information about the Franciscan Health Family Birth Center Crown Point and the NICU is available online or by phone at (219) 757-6330.