Peeking into the NICU

When You Can’t Be There… Cameras Bring Baby Close

Leaving your baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is always traumatic. Now, thanks to an innovative system called NICView webcam, parents can watch their baby almost 24/7 on their smartphone, laptop, tablet or computer.

It’s an emotional roller coaster no parent wants to ride, but one thrust upon the Rico family when Evelyn Rico’s pregnancy took an unexpected turn.

“At 29 weeks along, my water broke,” Evelyn recalled. “They put me on bed rest and I was in NorthBay Medical Center’s Mother/Baby unit for 13 days. And then I went into labor. My baby came so early, we just weren’t ready; we didn’t have a crib or anything.”

Born more than two months too early, little Ronin Rico grew strong and steady in the NorthBay NICU following his arrival on March 22. “His doctors say he is doing well for the most part, and he’ll thrive,” Evelyn reported. “But I can get very emotional—it’s up and down all the time. The nurses here have been so helpful and supportive to our entire family.”

NICUView webcams, a newly integrated technology, allow parents to keep an eye on their infants 24/7.

With Ronin expected to be in the NICU for an extended time, Evelyn and her husband Justin— both active duty personnel stationed at Travis Air Force Base—juggled the challenge of staying connected with Ronin and his nurses while holding down jobs and caring for Ronin’s siblings: Jaydn, 8, Landon, 6, and Jocelyn, 4, as well as Evelyn’s 74-year-old mother, Filipina, who lives with them. The care and support they received from nurses and doctors in NorthBay’s Labor & Delivery, Mother/Baby and NICU was gratefully received, Justin said.

They are especially appreciative of the newly integrated technology in the NICU—NICView webcams—that made staying connected to, and bonding with, Ronin so much easier. And, it’s technology no other NICU in Solano County has.

The NICView webcams were installed on 10 of the unit’s 16 isolettes, and the live video stream allows parents to keep an eye on their infants 24/7.The images are streamed without sound through a secure online portal. After signing a consent form, parents are given log-in credentials they may choose to share with other family members or friends both near and far.

“Having a premature or sick infant that remains in the hospital after mom is discharged home can be a traumatic event,” said Katie Lydon, R.N., director of Women and Children’s Services. “Every family dreams of taking their baby home from the hospital, and when a baby requires the advanced care of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit there is a sense of loss. Thanks to the NICView camera system our families can feel connected to their babies and their care team even when they are at home getting much needed rest or taking care of other family members.”

The cameras were installed in early March, just a week after Ronin was born, and the technology they provide was greatly appreciated, Justin said.

While Evelyn was on maternity leave from her job as a military police officer, she stayed in the NICU as much as possible. While she was there, Justin assumed many of the duties of home.

“I did a lot of errands,” Justin said. “I took the kids to school, brought them home, helped with Filipina and tried to be here.”

But, his work as a firefighter for the Air Force requires two days on and two days off. Whenever he had a free moment, Justin had Ronin’s webcam image running on his phone.

“The cameras were great,” Justin said. “I logged on through my phone whenever I could. I checked on him all the time.”

“I would turn on the camera first thing in the morning when I was home,” Evelyn added. “Ronin’s very active in the mornings and we could see him moving around and even see some smiles.” The live streaming video was great for his siblings to see and bond with their little brother, and that, along with Skype, kept family members in Florida, Hawaii and Southern California up to date with progress and growth reports.

The 10 cameras were purchased with grant funds from Solano Community Foundation and donations from Cordelia Rotary, as well as the NorthBay Guild. Fund-raising efforts are under way to obtain six more cameras, so every bed in the unit will eventually be equipped with the technology.

In the months after installation, families used the cameras every day averaging more than 53 log-ins per day, from all over California and
19 other states, Korea and the United Kingdom, reports Julie Crouse, R.N., project manager for NorthBay’s IT department, who helped install the system.

“My twins are 21 years old,” Julie said. “If I’d had this service when they were prematurely born and spent a week in the NICU, I would have felt so much more comfortable and less anxious. Instead, I couldn’t sleep, as I was separated from my babies and I drove the NICU nurses nuts with phone calls at all hours of the day.”

While the NICView cameras offer additional peace of mind, they were only one element of what the Ricos say was a very good experience for them. “We grew quite close to all the nurses and doctors, even back when I was in Mother/Baby,” Evelyn said, “and then in the NICU. They are all so wonderful, so caring.”

“They answered all of our questions, were so patient, so reassuring,” Justin added. “They even made a scrapbook for Ronin and we had this diary that helped us see where we were making progress and what to expect.”

“Being in the military, we appreciate that level of detail,” Evelyn noted. “We couldn’t have gone through all of this without the support of the nurses and doctors here,” Justin said. “They’ve been terrific.”

The happy ending: The Ricos no longer need to use the NICView cameras because Ronin was able to go home with his family on April 25. As of June 9 he weighed a whopping 12 pounds, a long way from his 3.2 pounds at birth, reports his proud mother.

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