The hallways of 5-11 are deceptively quiet. In this otherwise serene environment, tiny, fragile patients who have come into the world too soon are fighting for their life – with caregivers like Dr. Anne Monique Nuyt fighting right beside them. Welcome to Canada’s largest neonatal centre.

A birth is usually a joyful event. But when it happens long before it’s supposed to, it’s a whole other story.

Every year, more than 2,000 parents end up at Sainte-Justine, caught up in the whirlwind of a premature birth. State-of-the-art technology, the expertise of the team of medical professionals and lots of love are the keys to survival.

“The couples who roam the halls in the neonatal unit aren’t always ready to become parents,” says Sainte-Justine neonatologist Dr. Nuyt.

And if that shock weren’t enough, they often have to cope with the precarious conditions that can accompany a premature birth: incubators, a lack of privacy, intensive care and an extended stay at the hospital, to name but a few.

A rock to cling to in the storm

When life starts so early and threatens to come to an end just as suddenly, Dr. Nuyt and her team are a source of quiet strength and comfort.

Their role? To be there during an emergency. To reassure in times of doubt. To provide guidance in making difficult decisions when time is of the essence. To stay calm and reach out a caring hand. The high-tech machines in the unit may be necessary to keep these babies alive, but the human touch behind them plays an equally critical role.

“Getting important information across with all of the compassion the situation calls for is a challenge all neonatologists must deal with every day,” says Dr. Nuyt.

Lighting the way

In Quebec, 5% of newborns require extra postnatal assistance. Thirty years ago, many of them – too many of them – didn’t make it. But in the past decade, the survival rate for preemies has remained high and steady. However, we can – and we must – continue to do more, especially if we want to give them the healthiest outcome possible.

Is it possible to prevent premature birth? How can we protect these babies’ fragile bowels? How can the risk of infection and respiratory complications be reduced? How can we help the brain develop optimally out of the womb? What is the best way to reach out to parents of preemies? These are some of the research projects that are designed to improve the development of preterm newborns.

Dr. Nuyt is one of the healthcare professionals who refuses to accept the status quo. She has her sights firmly set on the future. Through her work at the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre, she and her colleagues are applying their clinical observations to advance scientific knowledge every day.

The progress made in the past decade has been tremendous. As researchers, we now have to do everything in our power to make sure that children and teens who were born prematurely get the appropriate medical follow-up to ensure they enjoy optimal health when they reach adulthood.

Dr. Anne Monique Nuyt

Your support makes all the difference

Dr. Nuyt and her team have pledged to keep pushing the envelope to understand, investigate and make progress in terms of improving treatment and survival rates and offering these children the best possible quality of life. After all, today’s children are tomorrow’s adults – who will, in turn, eventually start a family of their own.

We can’t enhance patient care without research, laboratories, test tubes and microscopes. The biggest hurdle to new ideas is the ongoing need for sophisticated tools and funding. The support of the community is therefore one of the most important keys to our ongoing success.

Dr. Anne Monique Nuyt

Cutting-edge technology and some of the most highly respected teams in the world – we have everything we need, right here in Quebec, to make this happen. This year, more than 1,000 infants will have access to the ultramodern technology, human warmth and hope that makes all the difference at Sainte-Justine. 

And all because of you.