The Knights of Columbus came two steps closer to their nationwide goal of placing 1,000 ultrasound machines into pro-life pregnancy centers, hospitals and clinics, when they presented the diocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities with a check to purchase a pair of handheld units.
On May 15, Steve Pochatko, grand knight with the St. Christopher's Knights of Columbus Council #16345, presented Cheryl Calire, director of Pro-Life Activities for the Diocese of Buffalo, with a check for $14,500, enough to buy two hand-held ultrasound machines at Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston. This brings the diocesan total to seven of the hand-held units. The Knights of Columbus set a goal of nine for the diocese.
"I was overwhelmed and extremely humbled. We raised $7,900 plus," said Pochatko, who only hoped to raise $1,500 from the St. Christopher's parishioners. "For something that is as important as this, the parish took hold of it. The checks keep coming in and coming in. Then we, the Knights of Columbus, made the last donation to put us over the top to get one machine."
The knights' national office matched those funds, so a second machine was also purchased.
The Knights of Columbus and the Office of Pro-Life Activities have been working with Catholic Health for two years on this project.
"Teaming together, the three of us, we've been able to get ultrasound handhelds into the field. We are so thrilled to be able to bring them to Niagara County today," said Calire.
Ultrasound exams, which are medically indicated throughout pregnancy for a variety of diagnostic reasons, use ultrasound waves to scan a woman's abdomen, creating a picture or "sonogram" of the baby in her womb. The machines provide a "window on the womb" allowing mothers to see her developing child, hear her baby's heartbeat, and recognize the miracle of the new life within her. They have helped women understand that, despite being unborn, a fetus is still a life.
"If there was a mom who was thinking, 'I'm ambivalent about being pregnant. I'm not sure. This may not be a good time in my life, and I'm thinking of perhaps terminating.' Being able to see the heartbeat really makes a difference in making a decision. 'You know what? This is a life inside of me.' The mom is literally able to see the heartbeat," explained Aimee Gomlak, vice president for Women's Health with Catholic Health.
The portable units, slightly larger than an iPhone, can be used during office visits displaying a fetal heartbeat at seven weeks. In addition to monitoring fetal growth and development, ultrasounds can also screen for any potential problems. These units can reach more people in outpatient settings than standard hospital models, which are about the same size as the technicians who use them. They can also look at the position of the baby near the time of delivery.
"Having these handheld ultrasounds is a very efficient way to help the doctors and nurse practitioners help the moms to have a great insight into what's going on in her womb," said Gomlak.
Msgr. Robert E. Zapfel, chairman of the Corporate Members Board and board of directors, as well as pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish in Amherst, said that the ultrasound units fit into the mission of the Catholic Health hospitals, as well as the Catholic Church.
"The new units that the Knights of Columbus are making available to this facility and here in Niagara County will help to ensure that healthier babies can be born, that healthier moms and happy dads will be able to, from the very moment of conception, guide their child through a happy life," he said. "The mission of Catholic Health is to bring the healing ministry of Jesus to those in need. Sometimes we can't see those in need. Sometimes it's because they're in the womb, sometimes it's because we don't see the poverty around us, the need around us. But, certainly we know that healthy people, healthy communities, will have healthy babies."
The small ultrasounds are currently being used in Mercy Comprehensive Care Center, Sisters Family Health Center, Ken-Ton Family Care Center, Springville OB Center, and the three newest Mount St. Mary's sites - The Center for Women in Lewiston, Ninth Street Clinic in Niagara Falls, and the new office on Brocton Road, Lockport.