Safe & Snug Hurley NICU Welcomes a New Panda Warmer


In July, Hurley Medical Center celebrated the success of the “Panda Warmer Project” for its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). My City was there to capture the heartwarming occasion featuring a pup, a panda cake, and newborn twins!

For nearly ten years, Kris Johns and his wife, Vanessa, have volunteered at Hurley with their therapy dog, Betsy. Both Kris and Vanessa have longstanding ties to the facility – Vanessa began volunteering there during high school, and Kris was born prematurely at Hurley. The couple’s connection to Hurley’s NICU inspired them to give back in an expressive way.

Mike Burnett, Vice President at Hurley and the interim president for the Hurley Foundation was at the Panda Warmer celebration to thank Kris and Vanessa for their successful fundraising efforts. “Volunteering apparently wasn’t enough for them, and they wanted to do more,” Burnett commented. “So, Kris and Vanessa set out to do some fundraising for the hospital – but, they didn’t want to do generic fundraising. They wanted to do something very specific and meaningful. They went out and raised funds for the Panda Warmer.” When Kris called the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals department at the Hurley Foundation to inquire about fundraising possibilities, he learned about the NICU’s need for another Panda Warmer. It was a perfect fit.

Heather Rayburn, acting Neonatal ICU Nurse Manager and Pediatric/Pediatric ICU Nurse Manager, expressed her sincerest thanks to the Johns, and explained how important the Panda Warmer is to newborns and their families. “Hurley is the only Level III NICU in our three-county region of Genesee, Lapeer and Shiawassee Counties – used for the tiniest and sickest of babies,” Rayburn stated. “Over 1,000 babies are born premature or critically ill every year here in our region. Our Level III NICU is able to provide the best care at an advanced level which requires an amazing staff and state-of-the-art technology, like the Panda Warmer.”

Rayburn further explained that the Panda Warmer is vital to quickly transferring babies to the NICU from Labor and Delivery or the O.R., and every baby transferred from one area to the NICU is done so in the Panda Warmer. This sophisticated piece of equipment is able to regulate an infant’s body temperature utilizing a probe placed on the skin that monitors and responds to the infant’s temperature needs. Premature babies are more prone to hypothermia and Rayburn explains, “the Panda Warmer alerts caregivers when the temperature is not appropriate and will make adjustments. This, and many other sophisticated features is why we chose the Panda Warmer. We believe our infants deserve the best of the best, and that is what they get at Hurley.”

Both Kris and Vanessa thanked everyone who supported the fundraising project, including: Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at Hurley, GE Healthcare, Flint Kiwanis, Greater Flint AFL-CIO Labor Council, GLS Building Trades Council, IBEW Local 948 and others.

Their friend, Amy Krug, arrived with her two-week-old twins, Eleanor and Elizabeth, who recently spent 11 days in the Hurley NICU. She stated, “when I had my babies at 33 weeks, it was a pleasure to know that the Panda Warmer Kris and Vanessa were working so hard to raise money for was the first home for my babies. We are so pleased they had such a safe place to start their life. It’s a blessing.”

For more information on Hurley’s NICU or any other area of Hurley’s Medical Center, visit

(L) Mike burnett (VP Hurley) & Rome iturralde (GE Healthcare)
(R) kris johns, mary sequin &
vanessa ferguson.
Amy Krug with Twins Eleanor and elizabeth

Kris Johns, vanessa ferguson and their therapy dog, betsy
Photography by Eric Dutro


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