Murray >> Jenessa Nagel doesn't remember the pre-dawn helicopter flight to Intermountain Medical Center (IMC), nor the teary-eyed doctors and nurses who, five years ago Monday, greeted the tiny triplet on the helipad.
But being the first patient to be wheeled through the doors of what would become Utah's busiest hospital makes for a "cool" birth story, said Nagel, flanked by her siblings Monday at a press conference marking IMC's 5th anniversary.
Tucked safely in isolettes, the 10-day-old preemies were among 172 patients transferred on Oct. 29, 2007, to IMC from two other Intermountain Healthcare facilities. The sprawling, $600 million campus was built in lieu of expanding the aging, landlocked LDS Hospital, and centrally located to serve booming populations in the south and southwest ends of the Salt Lake Valley.
"I was standing by the emergency room when that helicopter landed with tears in my eyes, keenly aware of the significance of what we were all doing, and of the extremely fragile patients we were given the privilege to care for," said IMC administrator David Grauer, reflecting on the logistical feat, which capped 10 years of planning. "It all came to life as the patients started to come."
Since 6 a.m. that morning, IMC has operated continuously, delivering 27,000 babies nearly equal to the size of the city of Draper and treating nearly 3.2 million patients. It's the flagship for Intermountain Healthcare, a non-profit health chain featured in a recent PBS documentary and recognized in debates by both presidential candidates for its delivery of high-quality, low-cost care.
"There are miracles here that happen every day, small miracles and large," Grauer said.
Most people pay little mind to hospitals until they need one.
But for IMC's 5,000 employees and its celebrity patients, Monday was a day to be celebrated with lunch and a 12-foot-long replica of the hospital made out of cake.
"Last night we got out the scrapbook, pulled out the newspaper clippings and talked about that day. It's a story they're always fascinated to hear," said Jodi Nagel, the mother of now 5-year-old Janessa, Natalia and Connor.
The Nagels flew to Utah from their home in Hollister, Calif. for the event, courtesy of IMC. Joining them were the first heart transplant patient, first kidney and pancreas transplant patient and the center's first liver transplant patient, Kristin Torres, accompanied by her five-month-old daughter, Liberty.
Torres received her liver at IMC on Nov. 6, 2007. Nurses and doctors there also helped her through her high-risk pregnancy. "None of us expected her to make it. I didn't even buy a crib until I reached 36 weeks [gestation]," said the 26-year-old Tooele woman.
Torres, whose liver condition stems from an auto-immune condition, is on a waiting list for another liver, but said she's thankful, "for my Liberty, my second chance at life."
Nagel was on bed rest with her triplets for two months before the babies were born via C-section on Oct. 19, 2007, at LDS Hospital, each of them weighing about 3 lbs.
"They were teeny tiny, on feeding tubes and oxygen," said Nagel, who was nervous about the transfer. "But it went smoothly. They called me on the phone telling me every step of the way, when they took off and landed."
The triplets spent five weeks at IMC; so did their mom, when she wasn't home caring for her three other children. "We've kept in touch with two of their primary care nurses. In those early days after the babies came home, they would call and say, 'I'm off today. Can I come over? Do you need any help?'" Nagel said. "It made our transition to becoming parents of three babies easier."
By the numbers
Intermountain Medical Center, Utah's largest and busiest hospital, opened five years ago on Oct. 29, 2007. In that time, the facility has seen:
1,825 days in operation
3,164,481 million patients treated
114,008 surgeries performed
400,000 visits to the emergency room
26,713 babies born
98,011 patients given charity care
12,214 flights to and from hospital by Life Flight helicopters
13,605,475 doses of medication administered
6,823,675 lab tests performed
3,678 pacemakers implanted
30,801 gallons of ice cream served
21,072,000 tissues used
Source: Intermountain Healthcare