Every year, the Methodist Hospitals Foundation invites supporters to a Mardi Gras Masquerade themed celebration that has the bonus of giving right back to the patients they serve. Attendees dress in their finest, don festive masks, dine on delicious cuisine, and donate to the hospital network that has led the charge in providing frontline care to the Region. This year’s Masquerade Ball, hosted at Innsbrook Country Club on February 22, benefitted the Maternal and Infant Care Center.
“One of the most cherished roles a hospital fulfills is bringing new life to the community, one that Methodist celebrates,” said Matt Doyle, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Methodist Hospitals. “Methodist has been a long-standing leader in protecting at-risk infants.”
In 1988, Methodist Hospitals opened the first neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in Northwest Indiana. Whenever a baby is born at one of Methodist’s hospital campuses a lullaby chime is broadcast through speakers for all to hear. Beyond the initial welcome, though, Methodist provides expert care and resources for every aspect of an infant’s birth—and that includes caring for mothers, too, both before and long after the baby is born.
“Life doesn’t just begin when a baby is born. It begins with an emphasis on women’s care,” said Dr. Valentin Drezaliu, the OB/GYN division chief for Methodist Hospitals.
Drezaliu touched on the many facets of the Maternal and Infant Care Center, from the Advanced Obstetrical Services (AOS) perinatal specialists who ensure safe deliveries for the most high-risk pregnancies, to quality labor and delivery care, to the many educational offerings to mothers and parents at every stage of pregnancy and beyond, to the pediatric care unit. As Drezaliu emphasized, each level of care is imperative to the overall health of the youngest members of the community and their closest loved ones.
“Indiana has one of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the country, and the infant mortality rate in Northwest Indiana is among the highest in the state,” he said. “We would be remiss if we ignored that reality and did not provide women and children with the highest level of care.”
According to the United Health Foundation, the infant mortality rate for the state of Indiana in 2019 was 7.4 deaths for every 1,000 births. The three zip codes with the highest rates all are located in Lake County. With Methodist Hospitals helping to lead the charge, these numbers can only decrease with the right education, care, and resources, which are made more accessible through continuous support received through events like the Masquerade Ball.
“We want to provide the highest level of care to the Region’s tiniest, most vulnerable citizens and their families,” Doyle stressed.
Sharea Cason can attest to the power of a strong neonatal unit. When her daughter Lauryn was born several months early, Methodist Hospitals was with her every step of the way to safeguard Lauryn’s future as well as Cason’s wellbeing. The neonatologists, NICU nurses, midwives and therapists worked together to assess Lauryn’s development and guided Cason through those challenging first weeks of her daughter’s life. Today, through Lauryn’s visits to Methodist’s Neonatal Developmental Clinic, a service available to all of their NICU babies, they continue to help Cason monitor Lauryn’s growth.
“The team at Methodist Hospitals is second to none in my opinion,” Cason said.
Dr. Ursula Colareta Ugarte, neonatologist for Methodist Hospitals, credited Cason for her strength during the ordeal. Ugarte was the physician who made the decision to discharge Lauryn from the NICU after she was strong enough to go home.
“This mom is great,” Ugarte said of Cason. “I was really confident in her and Lauryn. Lauryn was just 1,995 grams when we released her, I remember that clearly because everyone was looking forward to the day. We usually wait for 2,000 grams, but I said, ‘She’s got this.’”
Now, Ugarte has had the pleasure of seeing Lauryn grow and develop like any other child. For Ugarte, working with these youngest of lives is more than rewarding—it’s a calling.
“As a neonatologist, you get to touch the lives of some of the most fragile beings in our Region,” she said. “For me, it’s not a job. I’m just really happy to work with the babies. Every time you see these tiny babies reach two or three years of age, you realize it’s all worth it.”
In addition to meeting Lauryn and leaders of the Maternal and Infant Care Center, guests at the event enjoyed opportunities to participate in a silent auction, receive face paintings and caricature portraits, and dance to the musical stylings of the band Libido Funk Circus.
This year also marks the 10-year anniversary of the Methodist Hospitals Foundation.
“It’s amazing to think of how these 10 years have gone by so fast,” said Heather McCarthy, President of the Methodist Hospitals Foundation Board of Directors. “Our members have a strong commitment to patients, and that’s one of the main reasons we’ve had such success.”
McCarthy and the Foundation paid special tribute to board member Jeffrey Draper, who unexpectedly passed away February 13.
“I am certain, knowing Jeff, that if he were here tonight, he would encourage us to have fun and carry on for him,” McCarthy said.
To learn more about Methodist Hospitals, visit https://www.methodisthospitals.org/.