HARLINGEN, Texas – When Rio Grande Guardian heath reporter Julia Rodriguez interviewed Rita Goodarzi, director of Valley Baptist-Harlingen’s 38-bed Newborn Intensive Care Unit, she said she knows people her age that were born in the NICU.

Goodarzi said she can top that. She proceeded to tell an amazing story.

“Twenty years ago, we delivered a set of twins, preemie twins that were in here. They were 24-week twins. Last year, I got an application for a nurse. So I interviewed her and she did fine. I was going to hire her and then some of the nurses started talking and they said, you know who that is right? I said no. Twenty years ago, she was a baby, a 24-weeker in here. And they were twins, her and her brother were 24-week twins. Her brother is now an engineer and she is a nurse in the NICU.”

Goodarzi added: “She came to work for us after she’d been our baby. So we still call her baby.”

Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen is a Level III NBICU. It has been caring for region’s tiniest and most vulnerable patients for many years.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, to be certified as a Level III NBICU by the state, a facility must provide care for mothers and comprehensive care of their infants of all gestational ages with mild to critical illnesses or requiring sustained life support in addition to providing consultation to a wide array of pediatric sub specialists and pediatric surgical specialists.

Goodarzi has been serving patients throughout the Valley since the early 1980s. She said her unit plays a vital role for the Harlingen community and its outlying areas.

“It is very important to have a neonatal unit capable of caring for the tiniest of patients in the community.  When a baby is born premature or sick, the initial management of the baby can determine how the baby progresses,” Goodarzi said. 

“Having an accredited Level III NBICU in Harlingen means that the baby can stay here close to family, even if they are premature, or sick, and receive the excellent care that they need.”

Goodarzi said experience and high-level expertise are hallmarks of the Valley Baptist-Harlingen NBICU.

“We have a full team that can respond to any neonatal problem at any time. We have two board-certified neonatologists, full-time and part-time neonatal nurse practitioners, a full staff of neonatal-trained registered nurses, and more,” she said. “The majority of our nursing and respiratory staff members have been working in our unit for more than 10 years, and many of them have more than 20 years of experience in the neonatal field.”

Goodarzi said local parents can count on safe, compassionate care.

“Our NBICUs are a family. We work together, and take care of each other while we care for our tiny patients,” she said. “We don’t consider parents to be visitors in our unit, we want them to feel like it is their home and they are an important part of the care team for their baby.”

Editor’s Note: Here is Rio Grande Guardian health reporter Julia Rodriguez’s interview with Valley Baptist-Harlingen NICU director Rita Goodarzi:


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