The March of Dimes's Premature Birth Report Card is out and Indiana has made a B.
This is welcome news for the state because it has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation.
Since babies born too soon are most at risk, we set out to see how doctors and nurses in the Wabash Valley work to keep those tiny hearts beating.
We're fortunate to have Union Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It's the largest one in a 70 mile radius and was the first NICU in the state. It's an advanced level three facility and can handle most neonatal needs but not surgeries.
Its neonatalogists and nurses say medical advances they're using today are saving little lives like never.
"Technology has saved lives, I mean we're talking even for a baby born at six months gestation [it] has about a 50% chance of survival now. Can you believe that?" asks Dr. Rosario Chua, a neonatologist at Union.
Michelle Gutish is the assistant nursing care manager for the NICU and pediatrics at Union Hospital. "I've worked here in the NICU at Union for 22 years so I have seen a lot of changes. Some of them certainly has been the advances that we've been able to make in respiratory care."
One of those advances is a medicine called surfactant, which the NICU staff says has revolutionized the way they treat infants with Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS); one of the most common complications preemies face.
"I'm very happy practicing in an era where it's available, because I trained at Riley when it's not available. So we were part of that group that was beginning to prepare for the study of that medication," says Chua.
The March of Dimes, who helped fund research for the drug, says that deaths from RDS have been reduced by two thirds because of widespread surfactant use.
Nevertheless Indiana's infant mortality rate ranks as one of the worst in the country--coming in at 47th.
Dr. Chua acknowledges that Indiana has a problem. "There's an abnormality. Not only are we talking about the influence of preeclampsia or diabetes or hypertension or drugs, smoking. You know, Indiana has a high rate of smoking pregnant women."
The Indiana Department of Health says those maternal factors are associated with an increased risk of infant death among all races. Despite those statistics, NICU staff says they think beyond survival.
"We're no longer judged as far as survival because we know mortality has totally, definitely decreased with the advent of neonatal care and advanced technology," says Dr. Chua.
Click here to watch Miracle Babies Part II.