Departmental News


The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Stony Brook University Hospital received an unexpected donation and letter of gratitude from a 2006 high school graduate/1988 NICU graduate named Christopher Burke who spent eight months in the unit 18 years ago.

Christopher, now a resident of Melbourne, FL, was born at 32 weeks with an esophageal atresia, a disorder of the digestive system in which the esophagus does not develop properly. His condition required five surgeries and an eight-month stay in the NICU. Following is the content of his recent letter to the NICU staff:

My name is Christopher Burke, I was born on October 14, 1987 and spent 8 months in the company of your staff. I was born 2 months pre-mature with an esophageal atresia. I required five surgeries all of which were performed by Dr. Priebe. The care I received and the care my family received is the reason for this letter.

Currently, I am a healthy 18-year-old graduating high school this May. I plan to attend the University of Central Florida and major in Forensic Analysis. On March 5, 2005 I received my Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scouts. This is the highest rank a Scout can achieve and took many long hours of study and commitment. Traditionally, during their Eagle Scout Court of Honor scouts choose a charity or organization to donate to rather than accept gifts. I chose the NICU unit at Stony Brook Hospital. If it were not for the doctors and nurses on staff at the time of my birth, I would not be here. I am not sure if any of them are still there but enclosed is picture of me at birth and a current photo as well.

Then …

… And Now

Enclosed please find the donations totaling $930 from my Eagle Scout Court of Honor. It is my request that these funds go directly to the infants in your care. Please purchase any needed supplies (blankets, hats, toys, etc) for them. I realize that these children are too small to know what they are receiving, but I am sure that their parents will appreciate it. I know that I spent Easter and Christmas with you and my family was grateful when there were toys and blankets placed in my bed.

Please accept this gift and my appreciation for all that you have done for me and all you will continue to do for others. God Bless you all.

Cedric J. Priebe, Jr. MD, professor of surgery and chief of pediatric surgery, performed the five procedures. "As a tiny premature infant Chris had a complex obstruction of his swallowing tube called long-gap esophageal atresia," said Dr. Priebe. "He required a staged approach to his repair which also involved operative relief of airway obstruction and esophageal reflux. He received excellent care from the entire Stony Brook nursing and doctor team. It was gratifying to hear how well he has matured. His generosity and remembrance of the NICU are a tribute to his fine character and parental guidance."

Staffed with a team of seven perinatologists (doctors specializing in the care of women with high-risk pregnancies), six neonatologists (doctors who specialize in the care of newborns), 11 neonatal nurse practitioners and more than 100 specially trained nurses, Stony Brook University Hospital is home to Suffolk County's only Regional Perinatal Center caring for up to 50 critically ill newborns at a time. Each year, the NICU admits more than 825 premature, sick and injured babies; 400 of those admissions were less than 37 weeks gestation and 456 of them were less than 5½ pounds. More than 150 infants and 125 high-risk pregnant women are transferred annually from other hospitals in the region to the Regional Perinatal Center at Stony Brook. For more information, call Stony Brook University HealthConnect at 631-444-4000.

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