INDIANAPOLIS – When a newborn heads to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) instead of the nursery at home, it is a time of extreme angst. St. Vincent Women’s Hospital is using remote cameras to help parents stay connected, even when they can’t be by their baby’s bedside.
These are the hospital’s smallest and often most fragile patients.
Parents like Aaron and Mindy Kingsbury want to be with their newborn every minute. Every day, they look for progress.
“He looks so good. His color is really good today,” mother Mindy Kingsbury said during a recent visit.
At seven weeks old, her son Graham is three pounds and four ounces. He’s grown considerably. Mindy was just 26 weeks into her pregnancy when her water broke. He was delivered by emergency cesarean-section on December 28th. His birth weight was a mere one pound and 12 ounces.
“I woke up from the anesthetic and said, ‘Is he alive?’ I didn’t know if he’d be okay,” Mindy said.
At birth, Graham was one of the tiniest preemies at St Vincent Women’s Hospital NICU.
Graham needed help breathing and feeding, but the prognosis was promising. He just needed time to grow.
Back home in Columbus, about an hour and half drive from the NICU, Graham has three older siblings: Lea 13, Alex 12 and Joseph 11.
All three were placed as foster children with the Kingsburys when they were one, two and three years old respectively. The Kingsburys adopted the trio and for the past ten years believed they’d forever be a family of five.
Then came the miracle no one expected. Mindy was pregnant. “Graham was a real surprise for us,” Mindy said.
A family of six was welcome surprise. It meant Joseph would become a big brother.
“I just can’t wait for him to get home,” Joseph said.
The two older boys have moved to a new bedroom downstairs so Graham’s nursery will be closer to his parents. Though he’s not home yet, the family routine is already dramatically different.
“They just drop us off at school, go up there and see him and then come back and pick us up. Every weekend we always go…there,” Alex said.
But the distance and time between visits pass with less worry because now the family can log on at any time and watch a live camera placed right above Graham’s NICU isolette.
“It just helps us stay connected as a family,” Lea said.
The image is constantly dialed up on the family’s computer in the living room.
“Every morning when I’m getting ready for school, I just come up and look at him,” Alex said.
While the kids are rushing off to school, both parents are trying to keep up on work.
“It’s such a comfort. We pull it up all the time…on our phone we are constantly like, ‘What’s he doing? How does he look today?'” Mindy said.
Aaron’s job requires travel.
“Just being at my hotel and being able to see him at night is awesome. Just being able to check in and know that he is okay. There is nothing better than that, really,” said Aaron.
There are now 197 newly installed cameras in the St. Vincent Women’s NICU. The staff was trained before going live December 22.
“To be really honest, it was a little concerning at first. They were afraid of, ‘wait a minute, I’m going to be under camera,'” remembered the NICU manager Tawan Blackwell. “But they saw the impact it gave for the families, so that really helped them get over that.”
In the first two months, the hospital recorded 65,000 log-ins, many by grandparents, aunts and loved ones some of whom are out of state, out of the country and deployed but still want to be close.
“We know it’s really important…the outcomes of these babies…is how well they can bond with their family and extended families,” Blackwell said.
“I could look at you all day,” Mindy cooed at she leaned over Graham’s isolette.
With the NICView she can, until Graham is ready to come home close to his April 2nd due date.
“It doesn’t make up for being here, it helps, but in person is pretty amazing,” Mindy said.
“We are hoping it is a standard that will become something every infant who is hospitalized no matter what hospital, where in the country they are at, that this will be a standard of care that will be offered to everybody,” Blackwell said.
Franciscan St. Francis Health also has live camera monitoring for patients in the Level 3 NICU.