By Brian N. Willhite
In support of the Extra Life event on Nov. 9 at CSUB, five members of Campus Gamers recently visited the Lauren Small Children’s Medical Center at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital and toured the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units, too, to witness first-hand what their fundraising efforts for the Children’s Miracle Network are doing for kids in need in our community.
“I wanted to go to see how everything worked and to see what we were contributing to and I really like what I saw,” said Dylan Kumar. “It was amazing to see how much they help the kids,” he said.
The tour was hosted by Lourdes Nilon,the foundation manager at the hospital.During the tour, she introduced the students to the nurses and physicians working with the children and discussed the importance of their roles as well as how the specialized equipment used is vital to their efforts.
During the tour of the neonatal intensive care unit, a nurse described how one particular machine used to care for premature newborns cost $20,000 a day to rent. The NICU has been able to purchase a few now from funds donated through the Children’s Miracle Network.
“You think about babies being small, but you don’t realize that when the baby is small, everything is smaller and so you can’t take anything for granted,” said Ed Webb, founder of Campus Gamers.
Webb wasn’t the only one taken aback by the gravitas of the situation, as the other club members stood in silence, listening to the nurse describe how some newborns can weigh a pound and be so fragile that, if handled improperly, the skin can be torn away.
Before entering the NICU, each person had to wash their arms and hands for several minutes,then put on scrubs. This was done in an effort to protect the premature newborns from the spread of any contagions to which newborns are susceptible.
“I never really thought that stuff like that had to happen and after actually seeing that it just changed my outlook and realize how lucky I was and why we need to help raise money for the hospital,” Kumar said.
As the tour continued, Nilon and other physicians pointed out more equipment that was purchased with CMN donations, including bedside monitors that cost $9,000 each and a crib designed to care for two newborns, such as twins.
“When they told us how much everything cost and how most of it was through donations, that was kind of a surprise because it was a lot but everything helps,” said Alex Cesare.
“I like to see the tangible effects of our efforts, to see the equipment there and see that the money we raised helped buy that equipment,” said Webb.
Nilon said that all of the money that comes in through CMN is only spent on state-of-the-art equipment, adding that though some hospitals use their funds for more than equipment, Memorial Hospital feels that the money is best spent on equipment.
One benefit that Nilon discussed was that, because the hospital has been able to afford more specialized equipment, the hopsital has reduced the need for some children to have to be air-lifted to children’s hospitals in Los Angeles or Madera, which has helped many families avoid further complications.
“Our children here in Kern County deserve the best medical care available, so we want to prevent having to send as many families out of town because it’s a financial burden and an emotional burden,” said Nilon.
In 2015, Memorial Hospital is scheduled to complete the Children’s Emergency Pavilion, which will hopefully keep more families local, according to Nilon. The building will be funded by outside donations though most of the equipment will come from community funds raised through CMN.
Nilon has been impressed with the efforts of Campus Gamers and said that other CMN hospitals and communities have been taking notice of what they’re doing, too. A former Roadrunner herself, she’s also inspired by how members of her community are taking the initiative to help those less fortunate.
“I feel tremendously proud as an alum that students are raising money — these are future philanthropists — they care about their community and are giving back and I feel so fortunate that they picked the Lauren Small Children’s Medical Center,” said Nilon.
“I’ve been in awe at how organized they are — they’ve gone above and beyond,” she said.
Cesare added that he is more motivated to help the hospital and is planning on contributing his time to help with the Mediathon fundraiser at Memorial later this year.
“When you see the end result it makes it easier to keep going and more worthwhile when you know exactly how you’re helping people,” said Cesare.
Nilon said that the club fundraised close to $5,000 last year and that she hopes the students will share their experiences and continue to make Extra Life a success.
“I think that they walked away feeling not only satisfied with what they did last year but they go away inspired and motivated to do it again this year,” said Nilon.
Memorial Hospital is the only CMN hospital in Kern County and has been a member for the last 21 years. CMN is a conglomerate of 170 hospitals nationwide and in Canada. Currently, Bakersfield is ranks ninth in money raised per capitaand ranks eighth on most improved from last year.
Extra Life is limited to 200 participants, so if you want to be a part of it or learn more, visit the CSUB page at tinyurl.com/extralifebakersfield.