Dana and John Agamalian
Newport Beach residents Dana and John Agamalian long viewed University of California, Irvine Medical Center as a little-known community hospital.
No more. Today, the Agamalians are among the medical center’s biggest supporters.
“I found out that UC Irvine Medical Center is a first-class operation,” Dana said.
The Agamalians’ odyssey began four years ago when Dana became pregnant at 43. Her feelings of joy intensified when after feeling her twins’ first kicks. Dana thought she was having a dream pregnancy – until it turned into a nightmare.
Doctors discovered that those kicks were actually early contractions. With her cervix dilating, Dana found herself confined to 24-hour bed rest at a South County hospital. Physicians worked furiously to delay the birth of her babies, knowing that their very lives hung in the balance.
On Jan. 5, 2003, Dana gave birth to 2-pound-5-ounce Grant and 2-pound-6-ounce Alexa, who, in their mother’s words, were “tiny, tiny, tiny.”
Because UC Irvine Medical Center has one of the most sophisticated neonatal intensive care units (NICU) in the region, doctors decided to transfer the twins to UC Irvine immediately. Just after Dana gave birth, a team of UC Irvine doctors and nurses went into action. They placed the infants on ventilators, stabilized their breathing and transported them to UC Irvine Medical Center in a specially equipped neonatal ambulance.
Over the next 3 ½ months, Grant and Alexa received exceptional care. When Grant stopped breathing on several occasions, nurses quickly resuscitated him.
Likewise, emotionally frayed Dana and John received excellent care of their own. Dr. Feizal Waffarn, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, patiently answered question after question. Dr. Jack Sills, neonatalogist and medical director of the NICU, even gave the Agamalians his cell phone number so they could reach him anytime. Nurses taught Dana how to perform CPR on her premature infants, breast feed them, give CPR and change their tiny diapers.
“We take a focused, family-oriented approach to navigating a premature infant from birth to discharge,” Dr. Sills said.
The Agamalians had such a positive experience that they opted to keep their twins at UC Irvine, even after the South County hospital invited the infants back.
Today, 4-year-old Grant and Alexa are healthy and happy.
“We just know there is no way in the world our babies could have received better care than at UC Irvine,” said Dana, who belongs to several local philanthropic organizations, including Harvesters and the Great Park Conservancy. “We were with a bunch of pros.”
The Agamalians feel such a connection to UC Irvine Medical Center that Dana recently persuaded a Los Angeles businessman she knows to pledge $5 million to the Department of Pediatrics – the largest donation in the department’s history. The man requested anonymity.
The gift is but the latest example of the excitement surrounding the hospital. The only academic medical center in Orange County and the only one recognized in U.S. News & World Report’s annual listing of “America’s Best Hospitals,” UC Irvine Medical Center features a Level I trauma center, an acclaimed burn center and the county’s sole NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center.
As good as the current hospital is, the new hospital will be even better. Slated to open in early 2009, the $372-million facility will feature 15 state-of-the-art operating rooms and high-tech medical equipment standard in an academic medical center.
With 191 spacious, mostly private rooms, the hospital will offer patients and their families more comfort and amenities, including flat-screen TVs, cable and wireless Internet access.
“Our new university hospital will transform health care for all of Orange County and beyond,” UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake said.
— Marc Ballon, Health Sciences Advancement
|For more information about making a donation to the new university hospital campaign, including numerous naming opportunities, please contact Health Sciences Advancement at 714.456.3768 or visit www.ucihealth.com/new_hospital.asp .