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Neonatologist Dr. Elvira Parravicini is 13th recipient of Evangelium Vitae Award for Exemplary Medical Care of Most Fragile, Vulnerable Babies

by | May 9, 2024

By Dave Andrusko

This is such a beautiful story that I want to begin by providing the link to “Catholic Neonatologist Wins Award for Exemplary Medical Care of Most Fragile, Vulnerable Babies” which ran Tuesday in the National Catholic Register.

It’s a story, beautifully written by Mary Frances Myler, of the tremendous life-saving work of Dr. Elvira Parravicini who promises “moms and dads, ‘My mission is to save your baby’s life. But no matter what, I am walking with your baby, you and your family. I will not abandon you.’”

With that level of dedication, no wonder Notre Dame’s de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture honored Dr. Parravicini with the Evangelium Vitae Medal on April 27. “Parravicini is the 13th recipient of Evangelium Vitae Medal, which is named after Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical and is awarded to those who significantly advance the ‘gospel of life,’” according to Myler.

The story uses the experience of Frederic and Jessica Repond to illustrate how far Dr. Parravicini and her team will go to assist parents. The Reponds learned James, their unborn child, had severe brain abnormalities and didn’t know where to turn. Myler writes

Jessica’s doctors presented abortion as their only option. “They weren’t providing us any information, any help whatsoever,” Jessica Repond told the Register.

 

Abortion is so common in the New York City area where the Reponds live, most doctors don’t know how to care for a child with life-limiting conditions, her OB-GYN explained. But the couple kept looking, and as Jessica neared the 20-week mark of her pregnancy, they found the doctor they were looking for: Dr. Elvira Parravicini, professor of pediatrics and director of the Neonatal Comfort Care Program at Columbia University Medical Center.

 

“I sent her this long email saying, ‘I want to help my baby, but no one’s willing to help me,’” Jessica said. “Someone on her team responded the next day. They said, ‘We want to help you. We want to be there for you.’”

 

This was the ray of light the couple needed. “Someone was on our side for the first time in months,” Jessica said. Like hundreds of other families facing difficult pregnancies, the Reponds found an advocate in Parravicini

Background

“Parravicini began developing the Neonatal Comfort Care Program (NCCP) in 2008 with the goal of serving infants with short life expectancies through specialized medical protocols not common at most hospitals,” Myler explains. “From prenatal diagnosis to birth and beyond, the NCCP helps parents develop a plan for prenatal care, delivery and postpartum care and coordinates bereavement support and counseling for families should their child not survive.”

In James’s case, he lived four hours after he was delivered.

Parravicini’s team advocated for James to stay with the Reponds for several days in the hospital, giving the parents an opportunity to grieve their loss and receive visitors. Parravicini’s team coordinated a time for their 2-year-old son, John, to visit the hospital and see his brother, James. “We have so many photos of it all,” Frederic said. The Reponds received more than 700 photographs of James taken by the NCCP team.

 

“Dr. Parravicini is very focused on the babies — that’s her specialty,” Jessica explained. “But, at the same time, her team does so much for the family. They’re thinking about your living children, thinking about creating memories, thinking about how you as a mom or a dad are going to process all of this. They’re focused on the whole picture and not just a baby who has passed or is expected to pass.”

 

“When it came to leaving the hospital, they are the last ones we see holding our baby. They took him to the morgue, and they even came to his funeral,” Frederic said. “Their team has helped turn around what seems like a tragedy into something very beautiful.”

Myler writes that Parravicini’s Catholic faith inspires her work.

“Elvira would be doing this as a professional of high credentials, as a physician — but she’s also doing it as a woman of faith,” commented Cardinal Timothy Dolan. “And in her mind, the two cannot be separated.”

Categories: Religious