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Dallas Hospital Has New Claim to Fame - 2002-04-22

Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas, caught the world's attention in 1963 when President Kennedy was taken there after he was shot, and was pronounced dead about an hour later. Today the hospital's claim to fame is something entirely different.

Last year, close to 17,000 babies were born in Parkland Memorial Hospital in central Dallas, more than in any other hospital in the country.

Teresa McCowen from Lancaster, Texas, is in a recovery room with her son who was born twelve hours earlier.

McCowen: "I've already taken him out of his little blanket and looked at him from head to toe and he is going to be OK."
Hoke: "How heavy is he?"
McCowen: "He is six pounds and six ounces [about three kilos]."
Hoke:"What's his name?"
McCowen: "Michael Anthony McCowen."

Teresa McCowen was taken to the high-risk labor unit because she had a few complications, but overall, the delivery went well. "Actually, I was a little worried because of my age," she says. "I am 40-years-old and I didn't expect this. My oldest daughter is twenty-two and I have three grandchildren. So he is pretty much a miracle for me."

Parkland Memorial is a Dallas county hospital with almost 1,000 beds. It accepts patients of all income levels and with all types of health insurance. Dale Talley, the director of nurse services, says the hospital offers pre-natal services in many clinics around Dallas County. "So if a woman calls first and says that she thinks she is pregnant, they [the hospital] can get her into a clinic within two weeks. They [women] can even walk in and say 'I'm pregnant' and they [the hospital] will do a pregnancy test that day and if it's positive, set them up for an appointment [with a clinic]. So the access is very open."

Dale Talley says between 75 and 80 percent of babies born here are of Hispanic descent. She says the growing job market in Dallas metropolitan area attracts many immigrants, usually young couples of childbearing age. Hence, the growing number of births at Parkland Hospital.

After the delivery, healthy babies spend about four hours in the admissions room. "They get their vital signs; [they get] weighed, measured, all babies get Vitamin K which helps them with any blood clotting and they get ointment in their eyes to be sure they don't get any bacteria going through the process [of delivery]. It keeps their eyes well," says Ms. Talley. "They all get their first Hepatitis vaccine in here and then they are bathed. We let them rest a while. We move them out to the center of the room and see that they maintain their temperature. This can be a busy place here."

Nigerian-born Susan Egwuagu, the associate manager of the baby admissions unit, has been at Parkland for 18 years. She says when she first came, there was one nurse to nineteen babies. Although there are more babies born here now, the nurse-to-baby ratio has imrpoved since then. "Right now we have a registered nurse taking care of eight babies," she says.

In addition to health care, the hospital provides education for inexperienced mothers. Nurse Egwuagu says the bonding between an infant and the mother is very important. "If the baby is a little cold, we take the baby's sheet off and leave the baby with a diaper on and a little hat and put the baby directly onto the mom's abdomen [and] leave them there instead of putting them under the warmer [machine]. They get the warmth directly through the mom and that is very, very encouraging because not only are they [the babies] getting the warmth, but they also get bonded with their mom," she says.

Ms. Egwuagu says most women having babies at Parkland Hospital are very young, some of them teenagers, and are sometimes a bit frightened to breastfeed. "When they get so much in contact with their babies, we also achieve and encourage breastfeeding," she says.

Ms. Egwuagu says about forty-five babies are born on an average day in Parkland Hospital, but during the summer months, the number can go up to seventy. Dale Talley, the director of nurse services, says the hospital is bracing for the possibility of even more births this summer, as a result of the September 11 attacks. "We'll have to wait and see. But there is a worry that, you know, people were home and recognizing the importance of family and, I think, consoling one another and maybe the outpour of that will be more babies," she says. "So we'll see. We are trying to gear up for the possibility."

Dale Talley of Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas where, last year, more babies were born than in any other American hospital.