Science and humanity together in palliative care for newborns

The Piccinini Foundation contributes a scholarship for further training at Columbia University

“It’s something so big that I had never even dared to dream about it.” Doctor Francesca Catapano, who won a doctorate from UNIBO in collaboration with IRCCS Policlinico Sant’Orsola in Bologna, will leave in January for a few months of specialization at Columbia University in New York, universally recognized as one of the best in the world in the medical sector .

The sector of specialization is that of neonatal and perinatal palliative care (a very delicate area for many reasons), which in the Bolognese team has a point of excellence recognized by all, thanks to the “Giacomo Path”, led by doctor Chiara Locatelli.

Palliative care, which had an active pioneer in the British Cicely Saunders, was initially aimed above all at accompanying adults and the elderly. Only more recently have palliative care spread to the pediatric field and therefore to small and very young children, thanks also to episodes such as the one that gave rise to the Giacomo Path in Bologna.

The topic, initially restricted to the medical profession and the families affected by the problem, has recently hit the headlines with the painful story of little Indi Gregory.

With foresight, the Piccinini Foundation had decided a few months ago to use part of the funds raised with the “5 per thousand” to support Francesca Catapano’s work in the States with a scholarship, where the young doctoral student will be able to perfect herself following a giant in the sector: Professor Elvira Parravicini, founder and director of the Neonatal “comfort care” Center and professor of pediatrics at Columbia University. Parravicini had received the “Masters of our time” award in the field of care, assistance and education from the Enzo Piccinini Foundation in 2012 and has also recently returned to being talked about because she will be awarded the “Evangelium Vitae” medal of the Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. “The Neonatal Comfort Care Program she founded – claims the Jury – is a model of compassionate accompaniment that can inspire all those who bear witness to the hope and sanctity of human life”.

“Perinatal palliative care is a personalized medical nursing path that requires competence and scientific preparation”, explains Francesca Catapano, committed to giving visibility to the “Giacomo Path” and helping to create a scientific team capable of following very delicate paths for taking care of the whole family, always with the aim of creating individualized care paths for the care of these children and to reduce suffering. The professionals who dedicate themselves to this path take care of the child together with the parents, accompanying them from the prenatal period when a diagnosis of “life limiting” pathology is made. “I carry these mothers, these fathers in my heart. You become part of their family: it is a great privilege, but also a great responsibility”, continues Francesca. “Every child – she explains – teaches me something too: to see the greatness of love even when the effort is enormous”.

Lisa Bellocchi