If there's anything we've learned from renovation shows like Fixer Upper and Property Brothers, it's that redoing your home is a great time to dream big and get things exactly how you want them. It's a major investment that can pay off with a new space that's equal parts functional and inspiring.
That's the same spirit physicians, nurses, and other care team members brought to the table when creating a new space to welcome and care for The Christ Hospital's tiniest patients. The result is a
Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that's unlike any other in the region, including one very special art gallery.
Exceptional care for premature babies – and their families
Babies born prematurely need special attention and extra support to continue their development outside the womb. The workflows in the new NICU were designed to make the care team's jobs as efficient as possible, so the babies get plenty of undisturbed rest.
“There was so much planning to make this into a workable space," says Amy Robinson, RN, manager of the NICU. “Everything is right there at the fingertips for whoever is providing care for the babies. There's no disruption. It's all right there."
The NICU incorporates the latest technology to recreate a womb-like experience for these little newborns. Sensors adjust the lighting to match natural dawn to dusk patterns, so babies develop healthy sleep and wake cycles. Cribs have humidity and temperature controls for proper skin development. Acoustical flooring even cushions the sound of footsteps to reduce noise levels.
The Christ Hospital's doctors and nurses knew it was important that the newborns' families felt well-cared for, too. Individual rooms allow parents to stay close to their babies with more privacy. There are dedicated rooms for twins and other multiples to stay close together.
The renovation of the NICU coincided with a new partnership between The Christ Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. It expands access to Cincinnati Children’s renowned neonatologists and pediatric subspecialists so parents can establish relationships for special needs like cardiology, neurology, and gastroenterology right in the NICU and work with the same providers as baby grows.
And when it's time for baby (or babies!) to graduate from the NICU, parents can spend the night in a private transition room so they can practice home care side-by-side with our nurses and get all those last-minute questions answered.
A signature art project inspires big creativity
Just like those home renovation shows, our care teams wanted a signature art project to brighten the NICU for the babies and their families. They knew they wanted an animal theme, so what better place to kick off the project than the world-renowned
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden?
What started out as an idea to incorporate animal art into the NICU quickly took a delightful twist. “We said rather than human art about animals, let's let the animals create their own art," explains Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard.
The result is one of the largest collections of original art created by the Cincinnati Zoo's very talented animal artists! “Each bay in our unit has an animal designation with a painting. That animal from the Cincinnati Zoo painted a picture that's displayed above the headwall," Robinson says.
Bibi's Kiss and other fantastical works
A kiss is a universal sign of love and affection, and Bibi the hippopotamus is sharing one of her kisses in her painting, “Bibi's Kiss." The mother of hippo siblings Fiona and Fritz has a unique style of “impressionism."
“The keepers put the paint on her upper lip, so you see the lip and all the little whiskers, and she presses her face right into the canvas to make it," Maynard says. The result is a delightful print in shades of blue.
The zoo's Massai giraffes take a different approach to their art. They use their feet to make a real impact on the art world.
“When the giraffes make the paintings like the ones we have at The Christ Hospital, you really wouldn't believe it. They use their feet like a paintbrush," Maynard says. “The keepers put down certain colors, and the giraffes walk over it and create their artwork."
The creation by Tessa shows her hooves repeated in four sections of varying colors, perhaps evoking the iconic spirit of Andy Warhol's most famous pop art.
What animal art collection would be complete without brushstrokes from an elephant? “You may not think the biggest animal at the zoo is also a fine artist, but elephants are very intelligent. And with that incredible trunk, they use it like a hand to paint with an actual paintbrush," Maynard says.
The elephants are very thoughtful in their approach to a blank canvas. “They choose their own colors. Some will use a lot of one color or a lot of another, and that means that every painting is unique – but also a lot of fun to think here's an elephant actually painting," Maynard says.
For her commissioned piece, Mai-Thai the Asian elephant created an abstract with hues of blue and gold, which fits in perfectly at
The Christ Hospital Birthing Center.
The Cincinnati Zoo has welcomed countless generations of zoo babies into their family of animals over the years. For Maynard, this project with The Christ Hospital is a reminder of how much people and animals share in common on our amazing planet.
“Baby animals and baby humans aren't very different," Maynard says. “They're very cute when they're young, and they grow up to become amazing creatures."
Families can see the animal's original pieces in the NICU waiting area. Those works inspired larger murals created for each of the NICU's themed rooms.