LIVINGSTON, NJ – The Livingston Sunrise Rotary Club hosted its 11th Annual Food Tasting to benefit the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Saint Barnabas Hospital Monday night at the Westminster Hotel in Livingston. This year, the tasting was attended by one of the NICU’s special baby stars, 13-month old Aria Grace Calvosa and her parents Angel and Gregory.

Event co-chair and Rotarian Dee Dolese introduced Aria and her family.  Aria was born on September 12, 2013, only 1 pound 12 ounces with a five percent chance for survival. Doctors at Saint Barnabas NICU placed Aria in a new high tech basinet, which helped her grow to 5 pounds in 85 days. On December 6, Aria was released and was able to go home with her parents.

“The doctors and the nurses couldn’t have been better,” said Angel Calvosa, “they took us by the hand – they gave us education, and their high tech equipment was the best there is to offer.  We were very lucky to be at the Saint Barnabas NICU.”

Other attendees included local politicians and candidates such as Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, congressional candidate Marc Dunec, Livingston Councilman Rudy Fernandez and his running mates Shawn Klein and Edward Meinhardt, along with Saint Barnabas directors, doctors and staff, local business leaders, and residences.

“It’s an important event because the money we are raising here tonight has a dramatic effect on people’s lives,” said Rob Emert, Sunrise Rotary President. “What the doctors and nurses are doing there to help these young babies – It’s really changing these parents’ lives and its giving them a chance to change our world.”

The Sunrise Rotary hosted over 360 guests on Monday evening and partnered with more than 30 area restaurants, caterers and liquor distributors who also donated their time, hospitality and product to the cause. 

“Today we have been able to donate well over $100,000, not counting tonight,” said event co-chair and Rotarian Monte Ehrenkranz. “With those funds, the (NICU) department was able to purchase special equipment which assists in saving lives of premature babies born in our community.”

While the efforts of the Livingston Sunrise Rotary Club will indeed benefit the local community, Saint Barnabas NICU is notorious for its outstanding care and attracts patients from all over the state.  The 56-bed facility is known to use the latest treatments and provide the most advanced care for more than 1,200 premature and ill newborns each year.   They are also able to boast that babies born 17 weeks early have twice the survival rate of those born at other hospitals in the Vermont Oxford Network, which includes over 800 hospitals nationally and internationally. 

Louis LaSalle, vice president of external affairs for Saint Barnabas, who introduced Dr. Shyan Sun, director of the NICU, attributed the department’s success to the immediate attention the babies get right after birth by “an exceptional” team lead by Dr. Sun. “It’s because of their care that the children survive.”

Dr. Sun also spoke to guests and thanked the Rotary for their efforts.  He told the audience that he was excited to purchase a new piece of equipment with the proceeds this year. 

Sun explained that a one pound baby has only one ounce of blood and that drawing one cc of a premature baby’s blood is equivalent to drawing 150 cc from an adult person.  “It is important for them to keep their blood,” said Sun.  By purchasing a transcutaneous pco2 monitor, Saint Barnabas NICU doctors are going to be able to run tests without extracting blood from the premature baby.  “So they lose less blood and they get better care,” explained Sun.

For more information about St. Barnabas NICU call (973) 322-5300 or visit their website.  For more information on the Sunrise Rotary Club visit http://livingstonrotary.org/