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MARION — Heartland Regional Medical center announced a new telemedicine partnership between the Family Birthing Center and SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis

Brittany and Joel Allen’s newborn son, Quincy, became the first patient to benefit from the TeleNICU system. Allen of Marion was expecting her fourth child in September 2017, she and Joel expected him to be as healthy as his siblings were, but the day after Quincy was born things changed.

Allen was getting ready to get up and take a shower when someone came into her and told her to wait. They had found a problem with Quincy’s heart.

In the past, doctors in Marion would have consulted with doctors at SSM Cardinal Glennon by telephone to decide whether or not to transfer the newborn. However, new technology in the form of a TeleNICU offered a different way to evaluate Quincy’s heart problem.

The TeleNICU equipment allowed neonatologists in St. Louis to consult with pediatricians to see Quincy in real time and evaluate his respirations, color, movement and the monitor. When he needed an echocardiogram, the cardiologist in Marion performed the test under the guidance of a pediatric cardiologist in St. Louis who was able to see the echo in real time.

Quincy was diagnosed with a hole in his heart. Specialists in St. Louis predicted the hole to close on its own, and it has. He was able to be monitored in Marion instead of making the trip to St. Louis. Today, Quincy is five months old.

“It was nice to be able to stay here,” Allen said.

Dr. Ayoob Ali (in Marion) and Dr. Justin Josephsen (in St. Louis), both of SSM Health Cardinal Glennon, demonstrated how the telemedicine system works.

Dr. Ali’s patient, a practice doll representing an eight-pound newborn baby, was in respiratory distress. Dr. Josephsen demonstrated how he could zoom in on a patient’s chest and watch respirations or zoom in to see the monitors.

“He can zoom into the chest area and watch the chest. He can look at the monitors and see the knobs,” Dr. Ali said.

“I can scrub and do the procedure while he is watching me,” Ali said.

If a baby needs to be intubated, the specialist can help the local doctor select the proper size tube, kind of blade to use and how far to insert the tube, as well as recommend ventilator settings.

“It is a very coordinated effort. It is always a blessing to get a call from other places and technology seems to help,” Ali said.

Dr. Ronald Chediak, a Marion pediatrician, said to think of baking a cake with your grandma on the telephone telling you what to do. The cake might be OK, but it would not be just like Grandma’s cake. If she was in the kitchen with you, she could see what you were doing and how the batter looked. You would get a better version of the cake. Telemedicine bridges the gap between the two, allowing doctors to perform as if they are examining the patient.

“This way I’m getting real-time advice,” Chediak said.

He added that he has a lot of experience, but this technology is especially important for new doctors with little experience.

Hans Driessnack, chief operating officer at Heartland Regional Medical Center, said the TeleNICU has been in place since September of last year. Quincy was the first baby to use the equipment and stay in Marion rather than go to St. Louis.

Melisa Adkins, CEO of Heartland Regional Medical Center, said the effort to collaborate with SSM Health Cardinal Glennon began four or five years ago when Dr. Pradeep Reddy came to talk to hospital administrators with the need for this kind of collaboration. When Adkins returned to Heartland as CEO, Reddy brought the issue up again.

“St. Louis can be very intimidating to people who aren’t used to driving in a city,” Adkins said.

She was impressed at the level of care offered at Cardinal Glennon.

“To be able to partner with them and bring this to Southern Illinois makes me proud,” Adkins said.

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Reporter

Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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