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Precious Cargo: The Doerr Family NICU 


 Born nine weeks early, Liam Thomas Connolly weighed just 2 lbs. 2 oz.

September 15th is National Neonatal Nurses Day.

It’s also Liam Thomas Connolly’s birthday.

Those two events intersected in 2011, when at just 31 weeks of pregnancy, Liam’s mom, Paige, was rushed to Columbia St. Mary’s Women’s Hospital for an emergency Cesarean section.

“We were at the Women’s Hospital’s Prenatal Assessment Center for a routine ultrasound,” says Matt, Liam’s father. “We had no idea anything was wrong, but within an hour Paige was in the operating room.”

Born nine weeks early, Liam weighed just 2 lbs. 2 oz. Dr. John Wolf, neonatologist and medical director of the Doerr Family Newborn Intensive Care Unit, Heidi Alonzo and Julie Gale immediately took charge of his care.

“Suffice to say, he was quite ill,” Paige says. “Due to a poor umbilical cord blood supply, he was in a state of severe malnutrition with multiple system organ failure and a large intracranial hemorrhage that damaged about 25 percent of his brain.”

The parents were offered the option to transfer him to Children’s Hospital early on, but they declined.

“We decided to stay at CSM because of our trust in the system,” says Matt, “and because of the reports of excellent care I have heard about the NICU.”

In fact, Liam’s stay coincided with the opening of the new Doerr Family Newborn Intensive Care Unit. In addition to the most advanced technologies available, this unit is the first NICU in Milwaukee to offer completely private rooms, which promote healing and essential familial bonding.

“The private room becomes your home away from home. They have a TV and a couch and other amenities to help make it seem normal,” says Matt. “Over the last month, Paige and I spent the night a handful of times, which is something that wasn’t possible in the old NICU."

The old NICU used a shared-space model, which most hospitals still use, where all 17 NICU beds were housed in one big room. Privacy was non-existent and individualized attention was difficult. 

"The new unit was an invaluable experience," Matt adds. "It allowed the nurses to observe us and give us advice on caring for Liam. It also allowed Liam, as well as me and Paige, time to adjust to what it would be like when we brought him home.”


Thanks to the unwavering support and exceptional care he received at the Doerr Family NICU, after 82 days Liam went home weighing 5 lbs. 8 oz. and well on his way to recovery.

At first, Dr. Wolf didn’t think Liam would survive the first week of his life. But Liam was a fighter. And thanks to the unwavering support and exceptional care he received in the NICU, after 82 days Liam went home weighing 5 lbs. 8 oz. and well on his way to recovery.

Today, coming up on his second birthday, Liam continues to make progress. He attends therapy both at CSM Women’s Hospital Pediatric Therapy twice a week and through Vision Forward twice a month. He has graduated from his gastroenterologist and from his neurosurgeon, although his neurologist and his ophthalmologist continue to monitor his progress. Liam gave his walker back to therapy in August and he is using his new found mobility to explore every nook and cranny of his home. He loves to have mommy and daddy read to him, especially the Llama Llama books. And, this November, he is looking forward to becoming a big brother to a sister.

“Our entire family is very grateful for the care that not only kept Liam alive,” Paige says, “but allowed him to thrive.”

You can help families like Liam's with a gift to the NICU. Your gift will fund the most advanced medical equipment to care for these tiny infants and amenities that create the caring and comforting environment for our NICU families.


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