College funds set up for Abington Hospital NICU 'graduates'

By Linda Finarelli, Montgomery Media June 23, 2016

(Click here to see on original Montgomery News site)

ABINGTON >> Two toddlers who had a bit of a rough start in life as preemies will find funding their college educations a bit easier.

Daniel Krupp, born July 6, 2014, at 27 weeks, and Cyamir Hooks, born Oct. 19, 2014, at 22 weeks and six days, received $5,000 scholarships toward their college educations at a June 21 ceremony at Abington Hospital–Jefferson Health’s Lenfest Pavilion in the name of two benefactors through the Dr. Ralph Schrager Memorial Fund.

Daniel, recipient of the first Dr. Ara Moomjian Scholarship, “overcame incredible odds — premature lungs, immature breathing patterns, a heart defect and feeding difficulties,” a hospital spokeswoman said, and grew from 2 lbs. 8 oz. to 5 lbs. 8 oz. during his 64 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Dr. Moomjian, director of the NICU for 34 years, “semi-retired recently and we wanted to do something lasting in his name,” Dr. Gerard Cleary, chief of neonatology at the hospital, said.

Cyamir Hooks, who grew from 1 lb. to 9 lbs. and spent 165 days in the NICU, received the H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest Scholarship in honor of the philanthropist who provided $5.5 million for construction of the hospital’s 360,000-square-foot Lenfest Pavilion addition to the hospital.

In speaking with Lenfest regarding a transition to some new administrative duties, Cleary said Lenfest told him to “put the patient and family in the center of all your decisions and you’ll be successful.”

“We need to say thank-you and came up with the idea of a scholarship for babies” that will grove until they reach 18, when they will be able to access it to pay for college, Cleary said. “The most enthusiastic was Ralph [Schrager],” a neonatologist at Abington who died of cancer this year at age 58.

Schrager’s family established the Ralph Schrager Memorial Fund and the two scholarships will be funded through it, Cleary said.

Every year, about 650 newborns spend an average of 14 days in the NICU, and Daniel and Cyamir were chosen, because “they had pretty significant challenges in the NICU,” Cleary said.

Daniel’s parents, Larry and Danielle, of Mount Laurel, N.J., were at his bedside every day, “and the staff appreciated Danielle’s optimism and Larry’s wonderfully insightful observations,” the hospital said.

“Daniel was quite a challenge; he gave us more gray hair,” Cleary said, “and then he lost his father, Larry, six months after he went home.”

“I was shocked and extremely honored that they would consider Daniel for [the scholarship],” Danielle said, prior to the ceremony. She recalled Dr. Moomjian walking through the NICU, where moms were usually holding the babies, saying, “Fathers have equal rights.”

“Cyamir,” who was on a ventilator for three months, had lung problems and got pneumonia, “was not expected to be here today,” Cleary said. “He had a 7 percent chance of survival.”

But Cyamir’s parents, Paul and Katrice Hooks of Philadelphia, kept a vigil at his bedside, doing their college homework, Cleary said.

The scholarship was a surprise, Katrice said afterward. Reflecting on the long road Cyamir has traveled already, she said the doctors had told them he might be deaf or blind or have developmental problems, but “he can see and he can hear and so far his development’s been good.”