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Lake Spivey Road Race raising money for Southern Regional Medical Center neonatal unit, Kids Outdoors Initiative

Portion of proceeds will also send children on educational trip

Medela sales consultant Barbara Curl, left center, presents one of the company’s portable breast pumps Thursday to Stephanie Devers, clinical manager of Southern Regional Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, to promote the Lake Spivey Road Race. Some of the race proceeds are being donating to the unit. They were joined by officials from Southern Regional, Clayton County Parks and Recreation, and Lake Spivey Community Inc. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

Medela sales consultant Barbara Curl, left center, presents one of the company’s portable breast pumps Thursday to Stephanie Devers, clinical manager of Southern Regional Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, to promote the Lake Spivey Road Race. Some of the race proceeds are being donating to the unit. They were joined by officials from Southern Regional, Clayton County Parks and Recreation, and Lake Spivey Community Inc. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

RIVERDALE — Lake Spivey residents in Clayton and Henry counties have always aimed to raise money to help children through their annual Lake Spivey Road Race and BBQ Competition, but this year’s event will also help the youngest and most needy kids.

They will be helping prematurely born babies struggling to survive in incubators in the weeks after their births, said Lake Spivey Community Inc. President Raymond Baggarly.

Race officials announced their intention to donate money to Southern Regional Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit Thursday. In addition to raising money to send Clayton County student to Jekyll Island on a summer educational trip through the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department’s Kids Outdoors Initiative, they will also aim to raise funds to help buy neonatal incubators.

“It literally mimics the mother’s womb, and these preemies have a huge success rate when they are able to put them in there,” Baggarly said. “Once they put them in there, they don’t have to take them out. They can even X-ray them inside that thing. It’s incredible, but they cost $40,000 apiece, so this money is going to contribute to help aid the foundation to buy more.”

The two-day race and competition event will take place Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 at Clayton County International Park 2300 Ga. Highway 138 in Jonesboro. Monday is the deadline to enter the barbecue contest.

Officials kicked off the buildup to the race and competition Thursday when one of the events sponsors, breast pump maker Medela, donated a travel breast pump kit to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. Officials from the unit will select a needy mother whose child is in the unit’s care to give the pump to.

Medela sales consultant Barbara Curl said the company decided to help support the race after learning about it and this year’s tie-in with the neonatal intensive care unit. She said she works with the unit regularly and wanted to do something to help promote the event while also doing something that could help the unit with its work.

“Moms need a better portable to handle breast milk because they are going back to work even though their babies are staying here, and they need a way to be able to work and keep their milk supplies up,” Curl said.

Curl and Southern Regional neonatal unit clinical manager Stephanie Devers said breast milk can be extremely helpful to a prematurely born baby because of the nutrients it contains. One of the arguments breast feeding proponents often make is that the nutrients found in breast milk boost a baby’s ability to fight infections by strengthening the immune system.

Devers said using the milk pumped and stored by a baby’s mother helps hospital staff get the infant to depend on traditional feeding patterns with having to inject fluids through an IV tube. The process of getting a baby dependent on feedings can otherwise take about a month, she said.

“For our extremely low birth weight infants who are three pounds or less, breast milk is kinda like what we call ‘liquid gold’ for them,” Devers said.

Southern Regional’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit has 24 babies in its care, including eight in its “Most Intensive Care” area. It also has five Giraffe OmniBed Incubators, although Southern Regional Medical Center Foundation Director Andrea Mendez said the foundation would like to buy seven more.

“Some of these babies are born as early as 23 weeks and that’s the size of your hand,” Mendez said. “They’re coming out half-way through gestation, which is normally 40 weeks. So, if they’re coming out at 23 weeks, their skin is extremely thin and they’re susceptible to brain bleeds which could lead to cerebral palsy.”

Devers said the number of brain bleeds seen in prematurely born babies at the hospital dropped from 30 percent to 11 percent after they began using the beds they’ve got. Three of the beds were purchased with grant funds and employees donated money to buy two more, said Mendez.

Mendez and Devers said the hospital has two neonatologists on staff, and they take turns living out of a room at the hospital so one of them is always present in case there is an emergency. They said they are the only hospital in the Southern Crescent who always has a neonatologist present.

“Others have one that has to be there within 30 minutes, but we have one here all of the time,” Devers said. “If I call him, he’s in his room and can be in the delivery room within a minute.”

Registration for the Lake Spivey Road Race is $30 for the 5K race and $35 for the 15K race and runners can sign up at www.LakeSpiveyRoadRace.org.

Registration fees for the BBQ contest are $60 for the ribs, chicken and “anything but” categories, $30 for the brunswick stew and BBQ sauce categories and $150 to enter every category. Applications for the contest are available at www.claytonparks.com.