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by Sarah Richter
The Z99 Radiothon has once again helped more than the organizers could imagine. The record $406,970 pledged by residents of Southern Saskatchewan is going towards new monitors for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Regina GeneralHospital.


“The NICU actually relies on our fundraiser each year to update their equipment,” said Z99 morning co-host Lorie Lindsay.

About 900 newborns use the NICU per year from all of Southern Saskatchewan, according to the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region.  If a baby is born premature, or there are complications during or after birth, they are admitted into the NICU. With so much traffic in the unit, the machinery gets lots of wear and tear and eventually needs to be upgraded.

Last year half the monitors were replaced; this year the other half need to be changed. Each monitor costs $27,000 to $28,000. The new equipment is more sophisticated than the previous monitors, and is important to making sure the babies are healthy.

Dr. Zarin Kalapesi, a neonatologist at the NICU, said the new monitors monitor things like chest movement; an alarm goes off if the breathing is not in the normal range, ensuring that someone can get to the baby right away to help.

Three leads attached to the newborn’s chest give a read-out of breathing patterns. Another lead is placed on the baby’s foot, to keep track of the baby’s oxygen levels. 

“These are babies who don’t speak,” said Kalapesi. “They are not able to express what is bothering them, and what the issues are, so... every baby who is sick does need to be on a monitor.”

The monitors also allow blood tests to be taken less frequently. The doctors do not have to poke the baby two or three times a day to check the blood work. This is a good thing for babies who are sick.

The NICU holds a special place in the hearts of the Z99 crew. Every year hosts CC, Lorie and Buzz stay awake for 36 hours to raise money for the unit. There are many personal connections for them to the NICU. 

“My own two boys were both in NICU,” said Lindsay. “Buzz Elliott, his little guy was born two months early, and he actually spent the better part of the two months in the NICU. That was a very scary situation. The NICU has definitely been our charity of choice just because of the wide amount of people who use it.”

Lindsay said that each year southern Saskatchewan comes out strong and supports the Radiothon. 

“Schools get their SRCs together and they do penny drives and bake sales,” explained Lindsay. “We’ve got a lot of people doing fundraising.”

Although the Radiothon is over, donations are still being accepted. Donations can be made to the Regina Health District, or to the Regina General Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Address all donations C/O The Z99 Radiothon.