Patient Care Fund

The Ruff Family’s Story

Helping Babies Grow and Thrive


Ella Grace

Helping moms and dads welcome their newborns into the world safely and comfortably is one of Virtua’s greatest joys. The ability to go the extra mile when families are in need can make a significant difference for our youngest patients during and after their hospital stay.

Virtua caregivers work around the clock to ensure that mom and baby experience the best possible care and can impact a family’s experience in many ways. Such was the case when the Ruffs settled into the Special Care Nursery at Virtua Memorial with their new twin boys.

Born at 34 weeks, Johnston and Hamilton Ruff arrived healthy but tiny, each weighing a little more than 4 pounds. Because of their low birth weight and still-developing lungs, they were admitted to the Special Care Nursery, designed for preemies and babies born with health challenges.

For mom Leslie and dad Woody, who also had a 11-month-old and a 7-year-old at home, an extended hospital stay was cause for anxiety. This unexpected scenario meant scheduling adjustments and travel challenges for the Ruffs who live at McGuire Air Force Base -- 30 miles from Virtua Memorial.

Though Leslie and Woody anticipated a small amount of stress acclimating to twins, the very real concern over their low birth weight had them feeling especially overwhelmed. More so when the topic of breastfeeding came up.

Because Leslie had experienced significant discomfort while nursing and using a breast pump with her firstborn, she was “dead set” that bottle-feeding with formula was the right choice for the twins. When she spoke with Virtua lactation consultant Shirley Donato about the health benefits breast milk would have for her preemies, her thinking shifted.

There was only one glitch: Because Leslie had to divide her time between the hospital and home, and because preemies sleep a lot and don’t quickly get on a feeding schedule, she would need to rely on a breast pump to supply milk when she couldn’t be present. This meant pumping every three hours. From her previous experience, Leslie knew that less expensive models wouldn’t be as efficient and she’d get frustrated all over again. Based on the family budget, renting or buying a hospital-grade breast pump was out of the question and insurance didn’t cover the cost.

What Leslie didn’t yet know was that Virtua Foundation could provide assistance to her family through the Patient Care Fund. This fund, supported by gifts made to Virtua Foundation, ensures that patients with financial hardships have access to the resources they need to heal and get well, even when they leave the hospital. The Patient Care Fund was used to provide Leslie with the breast pump that best allowed her to nourish her new twins.

Thanks to gifts made to the Patient Care fund, 20 families at Virtua have been given a breast pump this year. When insurance doesn’t cover the equipment and the cost is a financial burden, generous donations help us meet this life-changing need.

For Leslie, who had only associated breast pumps with pain, inefficiency and frustration, the opportunity to create a positive breastfeeding experience truly changed how she bonded with her newborns. Though she wasn’t able to start breastfeeding right away, knowing that the boys were receiving the best source of nutrition - her breast milk - gave Leslie peace of mind. Pumping also enabled Woody to participate in feeding the boys and soak in some bonding time of his own.

“Having Virtua Foundation as a resource made a huge difference for us,” said Leslie. “It’s been so comforting to know that I can give the boys what they need nutritionally. They’re gaining weight and starting to show their personalities.”

“I am grateful for the support I’ve received and also for an easier, less stressful experience than I had with their big brother. I couldn’t have done this without Shirley or the nurses here. They’ve put me at ease and let me be a part of everything so it’s not overwhelming when I get home.”


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Virtua Health Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization committed to enhancing Virtua's mission through philanthropy.


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