Sara Govero donation

Sara Govero with a pulse oximeter and a vein viewer, equipment she previously donated for newborn care and monitoring.

Mercy Hospital Jefferson in Crystal City will add a special care nursery to its Mercy Birthplace-Jefferson maternity unit, thanks to a donation from Jefferson County resident Sara Govero.

Work on the new facility is expected to start in the spring and take about a month to complete, the hospital announced in a written statement.

The Sara Govero and Family Special Care Nursery will serve newborn babies who are moderately ill but expected to improve quickly with urgent intervention. The nursery will allow Mercy Birthplace-Jefferson staff to provide mothers and babies with the individualized care they need in a private area, according to the hospital.

The nursery will offer a quiet environment to help calm the newborns and support brain development, a sterile room to prevent potential infections and an improved space for a transport team to stabilize infants if they need to be transferred to another hospital, Mercy Jefferson reported.

“I know we’re very excited to have this area to improve care for our babies and our mothers,” said Amy Schwent, Mercy Birthplace-Jefferson clinical supervisor. “It’s comforting to know the babies and mothers will have a space together.”

Schwent said such a facility is not needed every day but is good to have when it is, like when a newborn needs respiratory support.

Mercy Hospital Jefferson reported that its maternity ward saw 520 babies born in fiscal year 2021 (July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021) and of those, about 10 percent required special care or equipment.

“(The special care nursery) will allow the mother to be more comfortable and in close proximity to her newborn,” Schwent said.

At present, a moderately ill newborn must be cared for in a separate part of the maternity unit away from the baby’s mother’s room. The mother may visit, but there is not a comfortable place for her while her baby is under special care.

“The mother can come into the room now, but there’s only a chair and it’s not private,” Schwent said. “This will be private.”

The site for the special care nursery currently is used as nursery space at Mercy Birthplace-Jefferson, but changes will be made to adapt it for the special care nursery.

“It will have a couch where the mother can lay down next to her newborn,” Schwent said.

Mercy Jefferson spokesman Joe Poelker said the room’s layout will be rearranged “to increase the usable space and give it a fresh, more inviting, comfortable feel for families.”

He said a wall will be moved to expand the room. In addition, the space will get new flooring and new paint.

A plaque recognizing Sara Govero will be mounted outside the room, Poelker added.

In addition, the hospital will get a new infant warmer to be used exclusively for babies in the special care nursery. The equipment will improve safety and infection control for the newborns it serves, Poelker said.

Govero, 37, of Festus has been a member of the Mercy Hospital Board since 2018. She said she did not want to disclose the exact amount of her donation for the special needs nursery, but indicated it was more than six figures.

Govero said the donation also establishes an endowment fund to help provide parents in need with items for the babies’ safety, nourishment and care.

Poelker said the endowment will pay for car seats, formula, clothes, diapers, breastfeeding support kits, safe sleep kits and portable cribs.

Of her donation, 57 percent is paying for the special needs nursery and 43 percent is for the endowed fund, Poelker said.

Govero previously funded items for Mercy Birthplace-Jefferson, including three vapotherms that offer respiratory support for newborns suffering breathing distress. She also funded the purchase of two pulse oximeters, which monitor the amount of oxygen babies are getting in their blood, and two vein viewers, which use infrared light to see through the skin.

“It’s important to me that our community receive the highest quality of care close to home,” Govero said. “I want the babies born here to have the best technology and equipment to give them the highest level of care, and to have all the things they need when leaving the hospital.”

She said Mercy Hospital Jefferson holds a special place in her heart.

“We have a great hospital in Jefferson County. I was born at the hospital and I get to be a part of helping babies have the best possible start,” Govero said.

In addition to her work on behalf of Mercy, Govero also volunteers time to the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program, which provides court-appointed advocates for children who have been neglected or abused. She has served as the CASA treasurer since 2014.