Fight for neonatal care at LewisGale ends after 13 years with NICU ribbon cutting

SALEM, Va. – It’s been a long journey for LewisGale to get their very own NICU, but as of Tuesday, that journey is now complete.

And for one mom, this opening is an emotional reminder of how far she’s come.

“All you can do in that moment is hope and pray that everything works out,” mom Liz Lively said.

13 years ago, Lively was faced with an impossible situation when she delivered her son through an emergency C-Section at LewisGale.

“Everything happened so quickly, we didn’t have a choice,” Lively said.

At the time, LewisGale didn’t have a NICU, so Lively was left to recover, while her son Cliff was transferred without her to the NICU at Carilion.

“My son was on multiple machines to be kept alive. It was very scary and upsetting,” Lively said.

Cliff is now 13 years old. 13 years - the same amount of time it took for LewisGale to finally get their very own NICU.

It’s a journey OB-GYN Dr. John Harding said was an uphill battle.

“We kept getting pushed back and pushed back, but we made it and here we are,” Dr. Harding said.

Dr. Harding has experienced the loss of premature babies and said this new NICU will be life-saving.

“We had to do what we could to care for that baby, but unfortunately, that baby did not survive. And that’s been on my heart for many years. And this is going to change that outcome,” Dr. Harding said.

LewisGale broke ground on the NICU just over a year ago, and on Tuesday they cut the ribbon, ending a 13-year fight for neonatal care.

“You can go into an uncomplicated delivery, and all of a sudden it goes off of the rail, and we need that specialty care. And now they’re here 24/7,” Dr. Harding said.

For Lively. the grand opening is a full-circle moment.

“Our region is so full of love and well-being and wanting people to survive and do well that they’ll move mountains,” Lively said.

The $2.5 million NICU opens to patients Wednesday - and includes six bassinets for care.

About the Author:

Abbie Coleman officially joined the WSLS 10 News team in January 2023.