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News

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council continues to explore options to address parking constraints in the downtown triangle.

The Los Altos City Council last week held the first of two study sessions to discuss the potential construct...

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Schools

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Los Altos High School student learns how to use robotic surgical equipment at the school’s Science and Technology Week event last year. Students can also attend hands-on presentations at this year’s event, w...

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Community

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display


Town Crier File Photo
Pirate Manor is once again scheduled to arrive in the front yard of Dane and Jill Glasgow’s home on Manor Way in Los Altos, just in time for Halloween.

Although not the Walking Dead, pirate skeletons have been brought to li...

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Sports

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Eric Reitmeir launches the ball over Mountain View High driver David Niehaus (2) and goalie Kenny Tang. The host Lancers won Friday’s non-league game 9-3.

There wasn’t a lot on the line Friday when ...

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Comment

Reeder, Fung for El Camino HCD: Editorial

The good news for the El Camino Healthcare District (formerly the El Camino Hospital District, for those still getting used to the new name) is that there is a contested election Nov. 4 for the district’s board of directors. Three candidates are runn...

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Special Sections

Plant-based diet offers benefits

Plant-based diet offers benefits


Photo by Ramya Krishna
Los Altos resident Nandini Krishna prepares a meat-free dish According to author Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer.

Shirley Okita of Los Altos has found that adhering to a mostly plant...

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Business

New shop offers haute couture for girls

New shop offers haute couture for girls


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Girls @ Los Altos at 239 State St. offers clothing lines such as Nellystella as well as toys and other items for girls.

Cecilia Chen opened The Girls @ Los Altos as a tribute to the party dress. Whether it’s for...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

BARBARA DARLING MERIDETH

1946-2014

Born in Palo Alto, raised in Los Altos, retired in southern Oregon. Survived by Peter James Merideth, sons Matthew, Jacob and John Merideth, the loves of her life.

She was a housewife who took great pride in her home, her surroundings and...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn



Los Altos Youth Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a musical based on Washington Irving’s classic story, is set to run through Nov. 2 at Bus Barn Theater. The cast comprises 27 young actors, directed by Cindy Powell. Courtesy o...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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A celebration of survival for parents of ECH neonatal graduates

Photo Mary Beth Hislop/Town CrierAt nearly 9 months of age, Drew Cutler celebrated survival with family and his away-from-home family, El Camino Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit medical staff. Pictured, from left, are Drews mom, Carolyn Cutler, Drews brother Ty, grandparents Audrey and Bill Cutler, father Thomas and Drew, in his fathers arms.

It’s all the stuff that makes a great party – balloons and streamers, clowns, cake and ice cream, and the joyful squeals of young children having a good time. But what made this celebration extra special for many of the children is the “Once upon a time” – the story that begins in El Camino Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Mountain View resident Carolyn Cutler was just 26 weeks pregnant with her second child when she went into labor and delivered Drew, a 2-pound, 1-ounce baby boy 14 weeks shy of reaching full-term. Drew spent his first three months of life in El Camino’s NICU, attached to machines that helped him live as his little body fought off the complications common to premature newborns – a lung infection, problems with digestion and sepsis.

“We just really didn’t know in our heart of hearts what was going to happen,” Cutler said of her son. “These little guys – when they’re born this early, it’s critical.”

Cutler and her family went through a roller-coaster ride of emotions over the next few weeks after the birth – elated that Drew was here, but worried about the challenges he faced.

At a time when most families are bonding with their babies – feeding, changing, holding and cooing at their budding bundles of joy – Drew rested behind the walls of his isolette, barely visible among the numerous wires attached to his little body. Cutler said she couldn’t touch or hold Drew in those first few weeks as his weight dipped to 1 pound, 7 ounces.

“At that point, he belonged to the machines,” she said.

Cutler said she knew Drew was improving with each machine that disappeared from his side.

“His hurdles were measured by the equipment,” Cutler said. “It gave us milestones along the way.”

Cutler couldn’t say enough about the professionalism, care and attention Drew received in the NICU nursery – or about the emotional support she received from the nurses.

“The nurses kept our spirits up,” she said.

So, a week shy of his 9-month birthday, Drew and his family returned to El Camino Hospital June 27 for the NICU’s yearly reunion of Level III babies, a celebration for the graduates, their families and medical staff.

“It’s great – we really look forward to seeing them annually,” said Yvonne Chu, a nurse in the neonatal unit.

And with the technological advances Chu has seen in the 17 years she’s been a NICU nurse, outcomes for premature babies are improving all the time.

“This is what we work for,” she said. “I would have to say that 99.5 percent of our babies go home.”

Normal gestation for infants is 40 weeks – births between 37 and 42 weeks are considered full-term, and births before 37 weeks are considered premature. Approximately 12.8 percent of all births in the United States are premature – more than half a million yearly – according to information from the March of Dimes.

Neonatologist Dharshi Sivakumar, M.D., said El Camino’s NICU treats 450-500 premature babies each year and has witnessed vast technological improvements for the infants in the past 10 years.

“You want to have the right level of care,” Sivakumar said. “I’m so proud of what we have done here.”

Treating premature infants doesn’t start at birth, she said. Mothers at risk for premature delivery are given steroids to help babies’ lungs mature.

“That makes a big difference how they do respirator-wise,” Chu said.

Drug therapies keep the lungs from collapsing while oscillators pump tiny puffs of air into undeveloped lungs to keep them inflated, a high-frequency ventilating system introduced in 2002.

“It ventilates without the pressure and prevents lung disease,” Sivakumar said. “In the last six to seven years, we have come a long way.”

Two decades ago, a child born at 28 weeks would have had a higher mortality risk than a child born today and treated in a neonatal unit.

“At 28 weeks, we really have hardly any problem,” Sivakumar said. “Between 24 and 27 (weeks), we really have to work very hard.”

Premature births have increased 36 percent since the early 1980s, according to March of Dimes statistics, although there is no one specific explanation for the jump.

Many mothers with no obvious risk factors give birth prematurely, Sivakumar said.

“Nobody knows why,” she said.

What is important to know or understand is the level of intervention a premature baby will require. Infants with immediate surgical needs should be born at a hospital with a Level IV neonatal unit, such as Stanford Hospital. Sivakumar said transporting premature infants is difficult and should be avoided.

“You want to have the right level of care from the start,” she said.

Kristine Festa of San Jose knew her baby needed extra help from almost the beginning. Festa was carrying twins when she discovered one of them would be stillborn. Festa gave birth to son Ian five weeks early, at 4 pounds, 5 ounces. She and Ian returned June 27 for the second year to visit with their doctor, Sivakumar.

“We’re close to Good Samaritan,” Festa said, “but all of our doctors and nurses are here.”

Despite the medical advances for the country’s youngest patients, not all stories that begin “Once upon a time” have a happy ending.

“We all cry with the parents,” Chu said of fellow nurses. “It’s absolutely OK to cry with them.”

Nurses also work extensively with their tiny patients’ families, teaching them skills to care for their babies and instilling the confidence they need to trust themselves once they get home.

Cutler said she worried about bringing Drew home after three months in the NICU, but as he continues to grow and thrive, his earlier problems fade into distant memories.

“My child is happy – he’s eating, he’s healthy,” Cutler said. “You just remember you have a little, little baby you love and adore.”

For more information, visit www.elcaminohospital.org.

Contact Mary Beth Hislop at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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