DUBOIS — The DuBois Neonatal Intensive Care Unit celebrated a major milestone Tuesday as the department cared for its 10,000th baby.

The baby, Eli Stephen Evans, was born on Dec. 1 to Brandy Kalgren and Sammie Evans of DuBois. After a short time, Kalgren noticed that Eli was having trouble breathing and asked the doctors to check on him.

At the time, Kalgren thought she was being a worried mother, because her first child spent some time in the NICU after being born.

“He was perfectly fine when he first came out, but then he started having labored breathing,” Kalgren said. “He just had a hard time adjusting.”

The doctors and nurses acted quickly, moving Eli to the NICU to get him checked over and get his breathing under control. Kalgren said they took him to a warmer right away, and had two doctors checking him immediately.

“He did very well, his problem was not a severe one, and we are very happy. He should be able to go home tomorrow,” said Dr. Mohamed Hassan, a doctor in the NICU.

The NICU was started in 1977 when Pediatrician Dr. George Fatula and Neonatologist Dr. W. John Siar saw a need for DuBois and the surrounding communities. The NICU grew from a small 12 by 12 foot room to the modern, 16 bed unit it is today.

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When Dr. Hassan joined the staff in 2007, he brought with him a clear vision for upgrading the NICU. He introduced new technology, equipment and practices to ensure the highest quality of care for the babies.

“My philosophy in medicine is to do the best I can for my precious patients, those little angels we call ‘neonates,’” Hassan said.

The DuBois NICU is the only one within a 200 mile radius, and is centrally located off Interstate 80. The facility cares for babies born prematurely, or who have additional medical needs beyond routine nursery care.

“These are sick babies, but we have the capability of keeping them here, and close to home, and that’s what our goal is,” said Suzanne McCullough, NICU nursing director.

While most hospitals are looking forward to the possibility of a New Year’s baby, the doctors and nurses in the DuBois NICU had a countdown for their 10,000th baby. On average, they care for about 300 babies a year, and about eight each day.

“I’m just a piece of the whole machine working here,” Dr. Hassan said. “Every baby is very precious, they all have a story. It makes a big difference when you see the family taking the baby, happy and smiling.”

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