WEST CHESTER, PA — Balancing life as a new parent is hard enough, but for those with a child in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) the challenges become even greater. Add in restrictions from a worldwide pandemic and the ability for many families to see their babies becomes even more challenging. Now, thanks to the kindness of several loyal donors, families at the Moore Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Chester County Hospital can see their babies 24/7 without having to be at the hospital.
With AngelEye Health’s secure, live-stream video, families can see their baby anytime, anywhere, using an app on their phone, computer or tablet. The technology also includes a one-way patient update tool that allows the clinical staff to send parents care updates and fun moments through text, photo or recorded video, further engaging parents in the Chester County Hospital NICU’s goal of “family-centered care”.
“This technology is another tool to help make our babies’ parents feel like they are part of the care team for their child, not just visiting,” says Jennifer Cohen, MD, MMSc, Medical Director, NICU for CHOP Newborn Care Network at Chester County Hospital.
The Chester County Hospital NICU, a satellite of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Newborn Care Network, was able to purchase cameras for all 14 stationary beds and a transition room. Five mobile cameras were also purchased and are used when babies are being transported to the pediatric unit allowing parents to see their child 24/7.
Improving Care & Communication
Reflecting on the challenges of the NICU, Dr. Cohen and Stefanie Steinberger DPT, CNT, NTMTC, Lead NICU Physical Therapist at Chester County Hospital, both agree the hardest part for many NICU parents is “loss of control”. No one plans to have a baby in the NICU. Parents unexpectedly lose the pregnancy experience they envisioned, birth plan they researched, celebrations and showers, their dreams of introducing the baby to their friends and family…even basic but most important tasks such as feeding their own child. Although nothing can fully restore this “loss of control”, the AngelEye Camera System and communication enhancements give parents peace of mind and help bridge the gap through virtual bonding and learning.
Dr. Steinberger shared an example of the camera benefits, saying, “For mothers who are pumping, studies show improved milk supply when moms can see their baby. However, all mothers will benefit by being able to watch their babies on the phone from home, work, or anywhere, which will improve bonding and decrease maternal anxiety.”
Katrina Dougherty, mother of baby Jolene, said that having this camera technology while pumping is one of the things she is looking forward to most. As a second-time mom, she said “you only have so many photos to look at while pumping. I do have a million, but it’s just not the same as seeing your baby in the moment.”
Dr. Steinberger also shared that she looks forward to being able to share videos of infant massage, feeding techniques, swaddle baths and more tips that parents can watch being performed on their own child and refer back to. This is another piece of a larger puzzle the team is focusing on to help families transition from NICU to home.
Not only does the AngelEye Camera System allow families greater bonding and learning opportunities, but it benefits the clinical staff by enabling quicker and more frequent communication in both medical and lifestyle capacity. Dr. Cohen and Dr. Steinberger agree this will help staff build even stronger relationships with families noting, “with long stays, you really do become family.”
A Parents Perspective
AngelEye reports that parents on average log in five times a day. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Chester County Hospital is following an “in once, out once” per day rule for parents, so the camera system is another way to extend time with their baby. Many families also have to juggle transportation, work, siblings, pets, taking care of themselves and other responsibilities on top of being in the NICU. The Chester County Hospital NICU team hopes the addition of AngelEye cameras will help ease that burden. Dr. Cohen adds, “I hope this helps moms take care of themselves more, realize they don’t need to be at the bedside 24/7, and be more confident in their decisions to go home and care for themselves, their loved ones and the rest of their family.”
At the parent’s discretion, even grandparents, siblings, and other loved ones can have access to the fun. Whoever the parents decide to share their code with can have 24/7 access to their baby on camera. Since many siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles don’t get to enter the NICU, especially with the COVID-19 visitation policy in place, the value of the AngelEye Camera System is even greater.
Many NICU parents agree the hardest part of the journey is leaving. On top of the shock of the delivery, learning your child will be in the NICU and dealing with COVID-19 restrictions are particularly difficult. Dougherty adds “the hardest part about this experience is leaving, going home and not bringing her with me.”
She also said it is hard having a toddler at home, which requires an extra layer of daily planning and means that she and her husband usually cannot be at the hospital together. “Having this camera will hopefully help us feel less lonely,” says Dougherty. She also noted how excited she is to share this technology with her family. “We have seven kids under four in my family, so we can’t wait to share Jolene with my sisters and the rest of our family.”
Dr. Cohen says, “Parents tell us they wish they could be here in person all the time, but that these cameras are the next best thing. They hope it will help reduce their anxiety at home knowing they can check in whenever they want.”
Empowered by Community Support
The implementation of the AngelEye Camera System at Chester County Hospital is 100% philanthropically-funded and started when a former NICU mom, Kelly Gallagher, shared her experience as a mom to premature twins at another hospital without any of these advancements or support. Her foundation, The Superhero Project, gave the Chester County Hospital NICU a grant for the AngelEye Cameras. Additional funding was needed to launch the program, and fundraising quickly became a top priority once the pandemic hit.
Dr. Steinberger admired that the funds came from all walks of life. “Everyone believes in and wants to support this technology,” she says. She shared that there were donors with experience as caregivers in the NICU and families of past NICU babies, but that the two largest donors — Di and Dallas Krapf and Dr. and Mrs. Charles G. Carson, III — had no personal NICU experience. They were just touched by the idea of helping to provide peace of mind to parents during this difficult time.
For families of babies like Sadie and Jolene, this generosity means more than anything they could ask for on this difficult journey. Dania Wilson, mother of baby Sadie who was born at just 25 weeks, said, “I am so thankful. The rollercoaster of emotions in the NICU is hard enough to handle. I’m thankful these cameras will allow our families to see her and be one less thing we have to worry about. Knowing we have eyes on her at all times is such a relief.”
Dougherty adds “I am just super grateful. We are so lucky with the timing of this technology, especially with COVID. I am so thankful it will be here when I need it.”
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