From left at dedication are Joseph Levine, grandson of Dr. Romeo A. Vidone; Debra Levine and Linda Vidone, Dr. Vidone's daughters; and Dr. Vidone. (Photo submitted)
NEW HAVEN – Calling it a "gift of life," Dr. Romeo A. Vidone noted that his family’s donation of $1 million for the newly renovated birth center at the Hospital of St. Raphael, donated in memory of his late wife, Lena, "made sense personally and professionally."
The Dr. Romeo A. and Lena B. Vidone Birth Center – a $2.2- million project unveiled with a ribbon-cutting and blessing on Jan. 24 – the same date as the March for Life in Washington – emphasizes a family-centered design for new moms and dads. It features soft lighting, art, earth-toned decor, soothing wallpaper patterns, wood-paneled ceilings, and flooring with a wood-finish look.
Designed to look and feel like a spa, the center also features a renovated concierge-appointed lobby and waiting room, complete with a waterfall, to greet visitors; a family area in the postpartum unit; a state-of-the-art nurses’ station; and patient rooms with draperies, sleeper sofas and bathrooms with pedestal sinks and frameless glass shower doors.
"We are thrilled to have the support of Dr. Vidone and his family as we complete this important project," said Christopher O’Connor, president and CEO of St. Raphael. "The Vidone Birth Center will be a fitting tribute to a family that has exemplified the mission of St. Raphael’s for many years."
That’s the "professional" part for Dr. Vidone, who is a longtime pathologist at St. Raphael Hospital.
The "personal" part goes back to the 1960s, when Lena Vidone, who died last August after a brief illness and whose portrait now hangs in the birth center, was struggling with infertility issues after nine years of marriage.
Dr. Vidone said that after graduating from Yale School of Medicine and completing two years in the Navy, he took a job at Yale as an assistant professor of pathology and met Dr. C. Lee Buxton, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale School of Medicine and chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale New Haven Hospital.
"His field was infertility and he took my wife on as a patient," said Dr. Vidone.
Dr. Buxton found that Lena needed surgery to reverse her infertility, which was caused by polycystic ovarian disease – a problem now treated with hormones. The procedure was a success.
The couple went on to have three children who today are a nurse, a dentist and a lawyer.
"My wife always felt very much indebted to him for this," said Dr. Vidone.
In fact, shortly before her mother died, said Debra Vidone Levine – born in 1965 and the eldest of the children – she gave Debra the appointment card that Dr. Buxton had given her in 1964.
"She kept it and gave it to me," said Mrs. Levine, who works as a nurse in the Family Health Center at St. Raphael and has two boys.
"Throughout my whole life, my mother always told me about her infertility problem," she said. "It was so important to her that Dr. Buxton was able to help her have a family."
For both of her parents, she said, "Their heart and soul is the Hospital of St. Raphael. My mother was always donating her time here. Her social life, friends, everything was focused around the hospital. So this birth center in her memory is very much in line with how she lived."
The Vidones also have a daughter, Linda, the dentist, in Massachusetts; and a son, Marc, the lawyer, in New Jersey.
After working at Yale, Dr. Vidone became chairman of pathology at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington.
In 1977, he joined St. Raphael’s as chairman of the pathology department. He began working with Dr. Brian Rigney, who is acting chief of obstetrics and gynecology at St. Raphael, to implement gynecological cancer conferences at the hospital. They now routinely discuss their gynecological cancer cases twice a month.
Dr. Vidone left the post of chairman in 2003 but still works part-time at St. Raphael’s as an attending physician.
"I think it’s important for the city to have another fine birthing center like this," said Dr. Vidone, "and St. Raphael’s is at the forefront of medical care."
Last year, 1,180 babies were born at St. Raphael’s. The hospital also offers advanced services for premature and at-risk babies, including the newborn intensive care unit and special testing, and care for high-risk patients in the maternal fetal medical unit.
The renovation included six labor and delivery rooms, 11 postpartum rooms and the lobby.
"It’s a great, beautifully done renovation of the unit that makes it a warm and intimate setting while providing the latest in medical care," said Dr. Vidone.
"The department and community will benefit tremendously," he said, "and my wife would be overjoyed."