For over 30 years, Dr. Wahib Mena has been on the front lines of providing care to premature and ill newborns at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, including those in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). He works hand in hand with high-risk pregnancy specialist Dr. Antonio Gonzalez-Ruiz. We talked with them both to learn more about how their team cares for these babies and their parents. We also found some amazing then and now photos of preemies that were born at Brookwood.
Meet the doctors
Dr. Wahib Mena (Brookwood Baptist Medical Center)
Dr. Wahib Mena has been at Brookwood Baptist Medical since 1990—taking care of little ones including tiny preemies and big full-term babies. He supervises the team that cares for the babies, including doctors, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, nurses and secretaries.
“Data that we get from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows better survival and improved quality of life rates for premature babies. We have more techniques nowadays, as far as better ventilators, better medicines, better technology and a lot of early intervention and developmental therapies that improve their outcomes significantly.”
Dr. Antonio Gonzalez-Ruiz has been working as a high-risk pregnancy specialist at Brookwood for almost 15 years and works closely with Dr. Mena. A number of situations cause an obstetrician to send a patient his way, including:
- Women with medical issues such as:
- autoimmune disease
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- thyroid problems
- Babies with:
- congenital inherited diseases
- genetic conditions such as Down syndrome
- heart problems
- Other conditions related to both mom and baby, including:
- blood type incompatibility
His goal is to optimize the care of the mom and the baby to increase the baby’s chance of survival.
If concerns arise during your pregnancy, the team at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center is ready to take care of you.
1. At Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, the team forms strong bonds with the parents
Twins Ford and Whit Macklem of Fairhope were seven years old when the photo on the right was taken. (Jon + Elizabeth Macklem)
Dr. Mena said that while taking care of the baby is their number one priority, making sure that parents are informed of everything that’s going on with their baby is a close second.
“We form very strong, tight bonds with these parents and it’s not unusual for people to come up to me outside the hospital and say, ‘Oh, you took care of my baby 25 years ago.’
The most rewarding part of our job is to help these babies and their parents and try to make a very stressful, uneasy situation as comfortable as possible.”
2. They’re avid promoters of breastfeeding in the NICU + in the hospital as a whole
(l-r) Dalton, Gracie Kate + Ellie Marie were born February 19, 2020. On the right, they’re with their big sister. Their parents started a “Four the Love of Books and Babies” book drive for the Brookwood Baptist NICU—help them reach their goal of donating 500 books. (Eric and Natalie Hollis)
Dr. Mena knows that breastfeeding is a critical factor in the health outcomes of the babies they care for. He’s very proud of the fact that Brookwood’s breastfeeding rates and success of breastfeeding at six weeks and six months after discharge are above both Alabama and national numbers.
Here are some of the ways Brookwood provides that support:
- Strong lactation department with lactation nurses that help with pumping
- Hospital-provided electric pumps and supplies for mothers
- Donor breast milk from the Mother’s Milk Bank of Alabama
- Human donor milk-based supplementation fortified with extra protein, sugar, calcium and phosphorus to help babies grow while reducing their risk of infection
“If you can exclusively give babies human breast milk, the outcomes are way, way better than if you give any formula—even a little bit of supplementation with cow’s milk fortifier increases the risk for infection and significant intestinal disturbances in the babies.”
3. NIC-View cameras provide reassurance to parents when they can’t be with their little one
In Brookwood’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), each baby has their own individual room, which parents, siblings and other family members are allowed to visit.
They also have a little camera called a “NIC-View” that allows parents who are away from the hospital to enter a password-protected website where they can see what their baby is doing any time of day or night, except for during procedures.
This makes a really big difference for parents whose babies are transported in from other hospitals or for anyone who wants to see how their little one is doing at 2AM.
4. They take care of both the mom and the baby
Dr. Gonzalez-Ruiz rarely has to send a patient for additional care outside of Brookwood Baptist Medical Center.
Careful prenatal diagnostics help identify issues such as heart defects, and doctors are able to establish a care plan with a pediatric cardiologist even before delivery.
When babies go into the NICU at Brookwood, they go through a full assessment which leads to a care plan that could include anything from blood transfusions to special feedings to ventilator support.
Almost all of Dr. Gonzalez-Ruiz’s high-risk moms deliver at Brookwood. After delivery, Dr. Mena and his team take care of the NICU babies. If surgery is necessary, Children’s of Alabama can perform the surgeries later, sometimes even months after birth.
5. TLC—in the NICU + beyond—makes all the difference
Dr. Mena (r) with two sets of twins who are former patients. (Brookwood Baptist Health)
Dr. Gonzalez-Ruiz said if he had a child that needed to go to the NICU, he would want to go to Brookwood.
“They get a lot of tender loving care, and they get top-notch care.
I think we provide a very comprehensive service to moms with a variety of risk factors, and we do it in a very caring way. There are many other places that provide high-risk services. But the difference is yes, we have the knowledge, we have the experience, but we also have the tender loving care.”
Want to know more about delivering your little one at Brookwood Baptist? Take a virtual tour today.