WFTV gets first look at NICU expansion at Winnie Palmer Hospital

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ORLANDO, Fla. - The Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies opened its new multimillion-dollar expansion on Tuesday.

The 30-bed addition makes its Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit or NICU the largest in the country, and Channel 9's Bianca Castro found how central Florida's tourism destinations actually helped make the expansion happen.

The rooms, which are located on the third floor, are big enough for an entire family to by the newborn's side.

The third floor is reserved for newborns battling birth defects or infections and are for others who are born prematurely.

It's also where 2-year-old Will" spent his first few days after his mother, professional golfer Annika Sorenstam, unexpectedly delivered 13 weeks early.

"He was one of those 2-pound babies that you see around here," she said. "It was quite the experience for us being an athlete, wanting to be in control. This was something I was not in control of."

Sorenstam shared her story as the hospital shared the new wing of its NICU. The 30 beds are in addition to the 112 that were already at the hospital for its infant patients.

Officials said about 1,600 newborns who end up in the NICU each year belong to mothers who are in town for vacation.

Doctors say travel, dehydration and/or stress can trigger problems.

"Precamplisa is a big problem. That's the condition when her blood pressure goes up and she's at risk," one doctor said.

Officials said the main reason their NICU sees so many patients is that it is the go-to for neonatal services in the state of Florida, and doctors from at least 21 counties refer their high-risk patients to the facility.

The new area is set to officially open on March 1. The cost to build the NICU expansion was covered by $13 million in donations.