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Russo grant helps St. Mary’s get new technology

But with help from Angels on the Bay, a children's charity founded 11 years ago by Queens restaurateur Frank Russo Jr., the hospital has a new wireless device to monitor vital signs that is more accurate and less invasive than any before - and helps quicken the recoveries of convalescent children."We have moved light years in terms of the technology and the accuracy," Grebin said.The system, called Masimo SET pulse oximetry, measures a child's heart rate, breathing and blood-oxygen - vital signs that need constant monitoring for infants with heart and lung problems. The wireless device is about the size of a walkie-talkie, with a cord linked to a microchip sensor that attaches to a child's finger or toe like a band-aid. In the crib, the monitor hooks up to a base plugged into the wall, but nurses and parents can unhook it, take the child out and still keep an eye on his or her vital signs.A digital display shows the child's information and audible alarms go off if anything goes wrong. Because it is far more accurate than previous systems, doctors said, fragile children are not disturbed by frequent false alarms characteristic of the older systems."It's frightening to them," Grebin said of the old monitors. "You can see many of them jumping when the bells go off."St. Mary's began piloting the new systems about a year ago and now has 135 between the hospital and home-care patients, at a total cost of close to $1 million, according to spokeswoman Katherine Channing. The monitors are both for infants in the nursery, older children and home-care patients. The grant from Angels on the Bay-$150,000 over five years-was crucial to funding the new technology, St. Mary's officials said.A spokeswoman for Angels on the Bay said the organization chose St. Mary's after touring the hospital and seeing how the young patients would benefit."You could really see how much they cared for the children and how important it was for them to have this piece of equipment so that the children could move around the hospital," said Vinnie Vitucci.Young patients like those at St. Mary's, many of whom are born prematurely, have not had the stimulation and the normal interaction that healthy babies who go home with their parents do. Sick children, Grebin said, need meaningful interaction, and the constant beeps and hums of electronic equipment slow their recovery. The new systems are far less susceptible to false alarms than the old ones, so children are spared both the noises and the painful tests that accompany them.The Masimo system also helps parents feel more comfortable taking their children home, Grebin said. Parents are trained in CPR and what to do if a child's vital signs drop, and Grebin stressed that no children are placed into home care until they are ready. But the new technology gives many parents the assurance they need to begin caring for their children at home.Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 188.

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