Exceptional Care, Exceptional Place
A unique home for medically fragile children proves that sometimes love conquers all, even the gravest conditions.
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For the first three years of her life, the simple act of breathing was too much for Julianna Swyka to accomplish on her own. Born after only 26 weeks gestation in June 2005, Julianna weighed less than 2 pounds, her body too undeveloped to function on its own.
Today Julianna is a chatty, vivacious, average-sized 4-year-old. Few people would guess that she spent her first 16 months living in medical facilities—three months in the neonatal intensive care unit at Christiana Hospital, 10 months at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, then another three months at Exceptional Care for Children, a 20-bed pediatric skilled nursing facility in Newark.
Julianna’s guardians, Judy and Cossie Gibson, credit Exceptional Care for Children with easing their granddaughter’s transition from hospital life, making it possible for the little girl to live with them in their Elkton home.
Even after her discharge from Exceptional Care in September 2006, Julianna remained dependent on medical technology. She was fed through a feeding tube and breathed through a tracheal tube.
“With the tracheotomy, emergencies happened almost every night,” Judy says. “Julianna would roll over and twist the tubing, so her breathing would get blocked, and that’s something you need to learn how to deal with. The help and supervision we had at ECC allowed us to become more experienced at caring for her ourselves.”
Exceptional Care for Children is the first and only long-term pediatric residential facility of its type in Delaware. Its existence was a long-time dream of registered nurse Jeannine Winsness and physician Stephen Falchek, a division chief for the Nemours Foundation in Wilmington, as well as others in the pediatric medical field in Delaware and Pennsylvania. Falchek serves as ECC’s medical director and chairman of the board.
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