In the best of times, having a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit can be a stressful experience for new parents and their extended family. During the current COVID-19 outbreak, it is even more so as hospitals around the country have limited visitation to protect the premature and critically ill newborns in their care.
That's why the team in the Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph Level III NICU is so excited about their newest addition: NicView, a bedside camera system that allows families to see real-time images of their babies via any internet connected device using a password-protected portal.
"We are thrilled to have the system available for use by our NICU families," says Michelle Armbrister, the NICU's nursing director. "It could not have come at a better time."
Currently, as part of its response to COVID-19, Ascension Via Christi is allowing only the parents at the baby's bedside in the NICU.
"Having limited visitation due to COVID-19 safety precautions has been difficult on everyone," says neonatal nurse practitioner Becky Hopper, who has served in the NICU for 17 years. "With this new system, any family member they would like to have visit can do so virtually."
The cameras allow family members who can't visit to begin bonding with their new addition before he, she or, in some instances, they are ready to come home. They also provide an added layer of reassurance to parents who need to leave the bedside to go to work or care for other family members an easy way to check on their baby.
"Extremely premature babies can be in the hospital for four or more months, which can be incredibly stressful for parents when they have to go to work or tend to other duties," says Armbrister.
Tasha and Gabe McKeever of Derby are among the parents with a newborn in the unit who have been using the system. Their other three children were expecting their new brother to come home with Tasha when Cash was born at 33 weeks gestation and being able to check in on him helps.
Yesterday, they say, their 2-year-old daughter, Kara, awoke saying, "Baby Cash, Baby Cash" and opened up their laptop. “It’s only been a few days that we’ve been using it and she already knows where she can go see her brother,” Tasha says.
Purchase of the cameras, now mounted in each of the NICU's 28 bed spaces, was made possible by a $99,000 grant from Children's Miracle Network Hospitals at Ascension Via Christi. Approximately two-thirds of those dollars came from in-warehouse fundraising by Costco, a strong national and local supporter of CMN. This year's national CMN champion,13-year-old Wichitan Vinny Manning, was featured on the packaging of limited-edition Mott's Fruit Snacks sold in Costco's warehouses across the United States.
"One thing that makes Costco unique is that we are able to get everyone involved in our CMN fundraising efforts, including our bakery, tire shop and demo services," says Carlee Wunderlich, general manager of Wichita's Costco. "Most of us have been touched by a child needing care from a Children's Miracle Network Hospital, so these babies are our biggest motivation."
The NicView cameras are just the latest virtual option to be added as part of the NewLife Center at St. Joseph's care delivery system.
"The cost of all of our expectant and new parent education classes were already being offered at no cost thanks to a grant from Children's Miracle Network Hospitals," says Armbrister. "All those classes and our NewLife Center tours are now being offered online so that we can help keep moms, dads and babies safe, yet still ensure that they have the resources they need to get off to a good start."