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Wilmington, North Carolina

The Betty H. Cameron Women's and Children's Hospital

By Mike Johnson

Carrie is pregnant. Very pregnant. My wife has journeyed far beyond the baby bump stage when strangers would pat her stomach with shameless adoration. Now she's feeling large and immobile, ready to be done with it, a little anxious and impatient after nine long months. Those same strangers now give her a wide berth, expecting her water to break at any moment.

The bags are packed, we have our guidebooks, the paid time off is safely stashed. It's like we're loaded up and ready for vacation but our son won't come out of his room. Meanwhile, across town sits our destination. Wilmington's brand new Betty H. Cameron Women's and Children's Hospital is our Disneyworld.

The Women's and Children's Hospital is the stunning new addition to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, the hub of our local healthcare system. Over the years the hospital has seen structural growth, technological advances, and a diversification in services, but it's arguable that these components have been simultaneously augmented like this before. The new facility will revolutionize how women and children receive care in Wilmington for years to come.

Groundbreaking on the 195,000 square foot hospital began Jan.19, 2006 and it received its first patients Sept. 14, 2008. An estimated 4,000 children are born at NHRMC each year. With this opening, each one will receive treatment in a state of the art facility that is worthy of its superb medical staff.

Clearly, the staff is excited about their new workspace. Jane McClean, Clinical Coordinator for Labor and Delivery and Obstetrics Coordinator for the Operating Room, highlights the upgrade. "The large, private rooms are more accommodating for families and their guests. There are hydrotherapy tubs that can be moved from room to room. There are also multi-head showers, which are great tools in early labor to manage contraction pain. We've tried to make things easier for the mother, while encouraging them to get out of bed and move around."

Accessibility to staff is another key component to the mission of the new hospital. McClean continues, "Our systems are now decentralized. There are charting stations throughout the unit so we can stay close to our patients. We used to have a call bell but now it goes through a computer and to the mobile phone of the assigned nurse. It's quicker for the patient to have their needs met."

Meanwhile back home, Carrie is now in the throes of early labor. It has been going on for two days and her contractions are getting stronger and closer together. All of our instincts and Lamaze handouts are telling us to go to the hospital. So we gather our luggage and laptops and massage tools and a giant red fitness ball and pile into the wagon like a Cirque du Soleil troupe, heading off towards 17th Street to have our baby.

We arrive at the front desk and explain our urgent business. We are sent to the Perinatal Evaluation Center for assessment. Once inside the facility, I am struck by the calm and quiet. I was expecting an asylum of moaning, birthing women. It is so quiet I start to wonder if the entire wing is still closed to the public. When we are taken to a private room and Carrie is examined, we learn that she has dilated one centimeter and has a paper-thin cervix but is still possibly a day or two away from delivery. It is too early in the process to admit us. We trudge back home to wait some more.

With a population of nearly 100,000 people, Wilmington is too large to rely on Durham and Winston-Salem and other state hospitals to take our sick and needy. The construction of the Women's and Children's Hospital gives families the chance to stay in town even when their loved ones are facing high-risk pregnancies and other medical complications. Barbara Buechler, Registered Nurse and Hospital Administrator, illustrates the importance of such services. "Our 45-bed, all private room Neonatal ICU is the only private room NICU in the state of North Carolina. Private room neonatal intensive care provides an environment that improves clinical and developmental outcomes for sick and premature infants. In addition, the sleep sofa in every room allows mom to stay with her baby during hospitalization. This provides the benefit of parent-infant bonding and parents feeling confident caring for their baby at discharge."

This December, the Betty H. Cameron Women's and Children's Hospital will open Southeastern North Carolina's only Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. As a result, emergency situations involving children can be handled close to home and Wilmington will continue to establish itself as a leader in state healthcare.

Back home again, Carrie and I jump at every gas bubble. We wonder if we'll even know when it's time. But then her water breaks and it is as dramatic and exciting as it seems in movies. We lock down the house, pile back into the car and leave knowing that when we return, it will be as a trio.

We are finally admitted and set up camp in our room on the Labor and Delivery ward. The room is immense and the sofa is soft. Our families come and go, taking full advantage of the visitation policy that allows the patient to decide who is admissible and how long they can stay. Carrie's contractions are breathtaking and we take arduous walks around the maze of hallways in the hope that gravity and movement will conspire to push him out. It doesn't happen.

During the night it becomes clear that there is a problem. Her dilation stops at 6 centimeters. Excruciating contractions are not advancing him through the birth canal. Depending on her position in the bed, his heart rate nosedives and our entire team spends long hours frowning at monitors.

In the wee hours of a Monday morning, despite our hopes of having a natural childbirth free from interventions or undue pain management, Carrie ends up having a C-section. The umbilical cord had wrapped around our baby's neck and prevented him from coming out on his own. This wasn't our plan, but who can plan for a medical emergency? The wonderful part of our story is the strong, healthy son we eventually took home with us. Would it have been the same ending in a smaller, older, less-equipped facility? Perhaps, but it would have been a much darker road. Despite the gravity of the situation, we knew we were in able hands. The staff at the Women's and Children's Hospital was amazing and touched our experience with professionalism and warmth. The facility was the Disneyworld we were hoping it would be. Our son, Foster, will say thanks when he learns to talk.

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Downtown Wilmington

By Rob Grantmyre

The sights and sounds of downtown Wilmington characterize hundreds of years of commerce, great architecture, and exuberant social atmosphere. As a historic district dweller, I am an active participant in these sights and sounds. I've come to know well the soft horn of the Henrietta, rhythmic clip clops of the horse drawn carriages, and the enchanting sounds of nearby church bells.

Unlike most North Carolina cities, our downtown sits on a major river, providing a touch of beauty and wildlife to a small but aesthetically pleasing urban sprawl. Developers and business owners have done an impeccable job building world-class restaurants, shops, and nightclubs. It's difficult to imagine an area the size of downtown Wilmington with as many spectacular dining and entertainment experiences.

If you're seeking entertainment with your meal, check out Water Street Bar and Grill, featuring excellent food along with great blues and rock musicians every Friday through Sunday. While you're there, say hello to the friendly owner and music fan Harper Peterson.

After dining hours, Wilmington comes alive with some of the greatest bars and nightclubs in the Carolinas. Level 5 City Stage offers live theatrical performances, and a fabulous roof top pub overlooking the Cape Fear River and the Battleship North Carolina.

Whether you seek fine dining or pizza, rollicking guitar licks or smooth jazz, downtown Wilmington has something for everyone. Come on down and see what's happening.

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Figure 8 Island

By Rob Grantmyre

Just North of Wilmington is a private island accessible only by boat or private bridge. Figure Eight is one of only a handful of privately owned Islands along the Eastern Seaboard.

Prominent Wilmington architect Ligon Flynn believes "the privacy and exclusiveness are what appeals to people the most." They are why the island is best known for its uncrowded white sand beaches, and unspoiled coastal lifestyle.

Originally developed by Bruce and Dan Cameron, construction began at Figure Eight around 1960. There are a mere 440 existing homes on Figure Eight and only about 100 lots available for building. There are no commercial businesses. Here you will find winding inlets, and rare maritime forests in place of the typical strip malls of many coastal towns.

A favorite vacation destination for entertainers and politicians, Figure Eight is simultaneously very exclusive, and very laid back. The carefree atmosphere is contagious. Driving along one of the Island's few roads its common for everyone you see to greet you with a smile and a wave. The Island also serves as a Sea Turtle sanctuary with multiple hatchings each year.

Only 50 to 60 residents call Figure Eight their permanent home. The Island is ideal for second homes because of its proximity to the Raleigh, Charlotte and Washington D.C. markets. There is an active rental market allowing homeowners to enjoy nice returns on their investments.

Although there are no restaurants on the Island, The Figure Eight Island Yacht Club does offer dining, a swimming pool, and a harbor for members. In the early days the facility was used primarily as an office for the developer. Today it serves as both the Yacht Club and the office for Figure Eight Island Realty.

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By Rob Grantmyre

Luxurious homes, championship golf courses, world class amenities... When Giovanni Da Verrazano landed on the bluffs of Landfall in 1524 he probably never envisioned such a paradise. What he did see were deer, osprey, egrets, and heron, all of which are still easy to spot in the comfortable setting of Landfall.

Today there are more than 1,000 families in the 2,200 acres of this premier waterfront community. Landfall residents enjoy a fully equipped sports center with 14 grass, clay and all weather tennis courts, and an Olympic sized swimming pool. There are attractive neighborhood parks and pristine conservation areas. Not to mention the comfort and convenience of a gated, 24-hour security enforced, community.

In an area known for great golf, Landfall really shines as the most challenging and beautiful waterfront course in Wilmington. There are 27 Holes Designed by Jack Nicklaus and 18 by Pete Dye. The incredible layout winds its way through "interior wetlands and conservancy areas to the Intracoastal Waterway with views of the Atlantic Ocean."

While the barrier islands have many second home and seasonal residents, Landfall is not a resort community. Most of the residents make Landfall their permanent home. The location offers resort style amenities while set in the heart of Wilmington and only a bicycle ride from Wrightsville Beach.

Incredible Intracoastal and Ocean views, the areas most sought after location, phenomenal golf and sports facilities, Landfall offers the very best of coastal living.

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PPD Pharmaceutical Product Development

By Ronald Totten

If you're planning to live in Wilmington, the letters PPD will invariably make their way into your consciousness, as if by osmosis. PPD stands for Pharmaceutical Product Development, and is a major player in local business. It recently constructed a large office building downtown, in preparation for a newly built convention center and increased interest in business, restaurants, shops and tourism in the area. The company's shiny, state-of-the-art building is a modern beacon on a picturesque skyline overlooking the mighty Cape Fear River. It's also a refreshing complement to Wilmington's ever-popular historic district.

Founded in Wilmington in 1985, PPD is a contract pharmaceutical research organization. It trades on the NADSAQ stock exchange under PPDI, employs about 1,800 in the area, and claims annual sales of well over a billion dollars. It features satellite offices, clinics and labs around the globe, and its customers include many of the world's Top 50 pharmaceutical companies.

"PPD has helped with the rebirth of the north end of downtown Wilmington," says Scott Czechlewski, director of communications for the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. "It's provided another anchor for redevelopment on North Fourth Street and the area immediately adjacent to the PPD property that will be a mixed-use development."

Czechlewski explains that condos, retail stores, office space and a marina are already in the area or in the planning stages.

"There is considerably more traffic to the local restaurants especially in the Brooklyn/ North 4th district," says Andrew Gray, a staff writer for the bi-monthly Wilmington Business Journal. "Restaurants like Big Thai and pubs like the Goat and Compass have become de-facto hangouts for PPD employees. The free trolley helps bring PPD staff to many downtown businesses."

John Hinnant, executive director of Wilmington Downtown, says PPD's presence is a huge attraction. "Others are drawn here because of PPD's success. We've seen a tremendous amount of interest from other related industries. We have also seen a tremendous amount of office development and end user activity."

According to the Chamber, PPD is the fifth largest employer in New Hanover County, after the New Hanover Regional Medical Center/Cape Fear Hospital, New Hanover County Schools, General Electric, and UNC-Wilmington,

The effects a company like PPD has on the area through payroll and tax dollars, says Czechlewski, helps support our community schools, infrastructure, police/fire, etc.

Even in a stagnating economy, PPD continues to impress business prognosticators. It announced in July 2008, a net income increase of 15 percent over the previous year.

"This type of company is positioned for growth," says Linnant. "And they employ a lot of highly skilled people."

But PPD is not all about profit. Through donations and employee volunteer hours, the company is active in the community. It supports efforts such as the Chamber's Cape Fear Future initiative, which according to Czechlewski is designed to retain and attract skilled workers to the area.

"For every two people retiring," explains Czechlewski, "only one is replacing them now." Support from businesses like PPD, he says, ensures economic growth in the region.

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Thalian Hall

By Rob Grantmyre

This year 6,000 elementary school children will discover the world of live drama, music or comedy in the lustrous confines of Thalian Hall. An architectural marvel, the theatre was one of 40 designed by John Montague Trimble. Thalian is the only surviving masterpiece of his brilliant career. There are more than 350 events planned annually in the Theatre.

What began as the Innes Academy Theatre was demolished to make way for the current graciously decorated building in 1858. In 1869 the Theatre's name changed to the Wilmington Opera House due to the intervention of John T. Ford, owner of the infamous Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. Having lost his theatre following the assassination of President Lincoln, Ford leased Thalian and several others along the East Coast. The Theatre officially became Thalian Hall in 1933.

Performers at Thalian have included; Buffalo Bill Cody, Guitar Legend Richie Havens, Lillian Russell, John Philip Sousa and Oscar Wilde.  Click here for a complete list of performers coming to Thalian Hall in 2008.

Thalian Hall is also the home of Cinematique Ð a series of classic, foreign and notable films sponsored by WHQR and Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.  Click here for more information about Cinematique. 

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Wilmington, North Carolina

By Rob Grantmyre

Nestled between North Carolina's mighty Cape Fear River on the west, and the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Wilmington has long been known as the "Port City of Progress and Pleasure." Founded in 1739, Wilmington prospered during its early years as a major port and ship-building center. Today the city continues to flourish.

Boasting one of the largest districts in the National Register of Historic Places, Wilmington takes pride in its reputation as a leader in preservation efforts. Along the river a number of Victorian, Georgian, Italianate and antebellum-style homes, buildings and churches have been carefully restored to their original grandeur. Many of these beautiful structures are now used as museums, shopping venues and bed-and-breakfasts.

Downtown Wilmington offers eclectic shopping, vibrant nightlife, theatrical productions, coffeehouses and outstanding restaurants that feature fresh local seafood and regional specialties. A few miles inland you'll find excellent golf courses, parks, entertainment complexes, department stores, plantations, a state university and restaurants galore. We are also home to Screen Gems Studios, one of the largest and most successful film and television producers on the East Coast.

Local attractions and annual events are as diverse as the city itself. Visitors can enjoy more than 45 attractions, including day or evening riverboat cruises, museums showcasing North Carolina artists and history, and a variety of tours of the historic district, nature preserves, or movie studios. Traditional festivals such as the N.C. Azalea Festival and Riverfest, among others, celebrate the area's arts and culture. Overnight options range from oceanfront homes and condos to riverfront inns, quaint B&Bs and larger chain hotels. Discover historic Wilmington and experience Southern hospitality at its finest.

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Wonderful Wilmington

By Ruby Cline

Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and North Carolina's Cape Fear River you'll find Wilmington, a 250-year-old port city with a population around 100,000 people who proudly call it home. From the rich cultural history and engaging views to the entertainment and nightlife, there's something for everyone.

What started out as a remote town in the late 1700s transformed into the largest town in the state by 1840, boasting one of the most vital ports on the East Coast. Port activity was then followed by railroads. Since this port served as a major base for blockade runners during the Civil War, Wilmington was known as "the lifeline of the Confederacy." By 1866, Wilmington was deemed an official city.

Shipbuilding has remained a constant over the years with World War I and II ushering in the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, where thousands of workers were employed in the 1940s. The North Carolina Legislature approved the State Port Authority in 1945, which continues to be an economic engine for the state.

In the 1980s, Wilmington emerged as a key American film and television production area, making it the third largest film location by the 1990s, just behind Los Angeles and New York. Several well-known shows, such as Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill and Matlock have been filmed in the area, along with motion pictures including Nights in Rodanthe, A Walk to Remember and Empire Records.

From the historical buff to the fashion guru, Wilmington boasts a culturally diverse selection for everyone. The city's riverbanks offer up a major container seaport, riverfront shops and boutiques, beautiful churches and the quaint historic downtown that includes a one-mile long Riverwalk, which serves as a big tourist attraction. While downtown, you'll often see the unmistakable green trolleys people love so much. Other appealing places include alluring beaches, Cape Fear Museum of History and Science, Wilmington Railroad Museum, Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts and Cape Fear Serpentarium.

Serving as another major attraction, the U.S.S. North Carolina, a WWII battleship that has since been turned into a memorial, continues to draw visitors and locals alike in the downtown port area. With all Wilmington has to offer, it's no surprise The National Trust for Historic Preservation named it one of its 2008 Dozen Distinctive Destinations.

For the food lovers, there are boundless options for feasting. From restaurants with scenic views of the Cape Fear River or the Atlantic Ocean, offerings of French, Italian, American and more are sure to please everyone's palette.

While Wilmington has grown from a small town into a big city over the past centuries, people love it because it retains the atmosphere and hospitality of a small town. There's a sense of community pride that can be felt while walking around town, and residents constantly are working to improve all the characteristics that make Wilmington such a wonderful place to live. And with the benefit of living in between the ocean and the river, it's easy to call it home.

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Wrightsville Beach

By Rob Grantmyre

"Attractive Wrightsville Beach is representative of the new communities that have sprung up around boating centers. Drawing its principal sustenance from nearby Wilmington, it is a thriving town of its own now." - Around America, Walter Cronkite

Originally named New Hanover Banks in the 1700's, the small barrier island was officially incorporated as Wrightsville Beach in 1899. Named for the Wright family, prominent landowners in Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach has blossomed into one of the Carolina's most treasured small towns.

Early recreation on the Island included fishing, hunting and the most passionate sport of the day, sailing. The popularity of sailing led to the construction of the first major structure on the Island. The Carolina Yacht Club was completed in 1853 and has hosted hundreds of regattas through the years. The Yacht Club is still thriving today as the Town's largest and most successful private beach club. It is recognized as one of the oldest yacht clubs in the United States.

Hugh McRae was perhaps most responsible for the early days of development and prosperity at Wrightsville Beach. As President of Tide Water Power Company he helped to establish the railroad that carried hundreds of visitors to the Island each weekend. The convenience of travel to Wrightsville Beach led the way for his next project, constructing one of the Nation's most spectacular entertainment venues. Lumina Station was an enormous beachfront pavilion sitting on 200 feet of majestic oceanfront. The 12,500 square foot facility was complete with bowling alley, shooting gallery, dance hall, and a movie screen fifty feet out over the Atlantic. The glory days of Lumina Station ended in 1972 as the many years of patronage and tides of change finally caught up. Automobiles had long since replaced the trolley lines, and competition from other businesses finally closed the doors for good.

Today the city limits of Wrightsville Beach include the small barrier island, the adjacent Harbour Island, and a small part of the mainland. There are delectable restaurants, a handful of rousing nightclubs, and the most beautiful white sand beaches in the Carolinas. Unlike highly developed coastal communities, Wrightsville has maintained a steadfast dedication to preserving the natural beauty and simple elegance that made it special 100 years ago. They enforce strict building codes allowing very few high-rises. The zoning ordinances also prohibit commercial enterprises from running wild. The Island stretches nearly 4 miles in length, and has approximately 3,000 full time residents.

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