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  • "The need is clearly there for an expansion."

    In the early 2012, Benton City residents Jennifer and Eric Corwin were excited to learn they were to once again becoming parents. Yet for the Corwins, that joy would soon become interwoven with worry. Jennifer found a lump on her sternum.

    When the lump was removed, it was found to be a rare and highly aggressive cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma. Starting chemotherapy quickly was critical.

    “Specialists told us,” said Jennifer, “the chemotherapy would be OK for the baby – not great, but OK.”

    She had her first treatment when she was 20 weeks pregnant. At 27 weeks, a routine ultrasound indicated the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby had dropped significantly.

    “The ultrasound also showed that he had stopped growing and I had noticed the baby had been very quiet,” she said.

    “I can’t imagine what it would have been like for our family if the NICU wasn’t here.

    Jennifer was immediately admitted to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in an attempt to increase the fluid levels. Soon, the baby began to show signs of distress.

    On July 28, through an emergency caesarian section and at just 27 weeks, Luke Corwin was born, weighing in at 1 pound, 8 ounces. He was immediately taken to Kadlec’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

    Little Luke remained in the NICU until October when he weighed 4 pounds. During that time, the Corwins, who have three other children, juggled family, work, Jennifer’s chemotherapy and being parents to a hospitalized baby. There were only a few days during that time that they did not see Luke.

    “It’s a half-hour drive from Benton City to Kadlec, and that’s long enough,” said Jennifer. “I can’t imagine what it would have been like for our family if the NICU wasn’t here. If Luke was in Spokane, I just don’t think we could have been with him as much, particularly with my chemotherapy treatments. It would have added a level of complexity that I can’t even imagine. It’s was difficult enough.”

    The care and caring at the NICU was, according to the Corwins “excellent. We were so very pleased with the doctors and the nurses,” she said.

    Today, just over a year later, Luke has celebrated his first birthday and is doing well. “He’s up to 16-plus pounds. He doesn’t have lung or breathing problems, no GI problems and his eyes are fine. His doctors feel he is on target for his correct age. We are incredible blessed,” said Jennifer.

    The news is just as good for her, too. She finished chemotherapy in March and a recent CT scan showed she was totally clear of cancer. Jennifer is even back to work part time as a veterinarian.

    For families such as Eric and Jennifer Corwin, having a Level III NICU close to home made a difficult situation better. Yet, the Corwins also saw firsthand how crowded the NICU is on a daily basis.

    “When Luke was born there were already 17 or 18 babies in the NICU,” she said. “It was very full. We were fortunate they were able to take him. There is also no room to be alone with your baby, just you and your baby. The need is clearly there for an expansion.”