Luckily, I have never had to have the experience of bringing my infant to the NICU , however I can empathize with any mother leaving the life of her precious baby in medical hands. I have often thought about the mothers that have walked the halls of a NICU, and how they get through the night. My heart has always gone out to them. Today, I visited the NICU at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health facility in Livingston, NJ and interviewed Dr. Kamtorn Vangvanichyakorn, who is the Director of Neonatology overseeing the hospital's NICU . In partnership with NJMOM, I have written this blog post to give that Mother who has just entered this fragile time of their lives something to read and ease their mind with information.
I will start by saying I asked Dr. Kamtorn what the survival rate was at the SBMC NICU and I was a little nervous to hear her answer. I was delightfully surprised when she said 99%. That blew me away. However, when I went on the tour of the facility, spent time with the team, learned about the equipment and the pure heart in this unit, that statistic did not surprise me as much. Every little aspect from the state of the art Giraffe Incubators, designated primary neonatologists that follow each baby from admission to discharge, family library, and support system designed for every person involved, it is the best place possible for little lives to be set up for success.
I started to think about all the ups and downs that Dr. Kamtorn has seen and I asked her if any story stands out to her. She replied with "Every baby that comes in here is a miracle. " And then proceeded to tell me about how a few years ago 5 babies came in born at 22 weeks, which have 10-15% chance of survival, and 3 survived and are doing well. I told her that she is a miracle worker and that her job is somewhat the closest thing to playing God, and she replied, "Everyone here does an amazing job on our team, the nurses, the staff, all play just as important roles." Humble and modest, she then told me how the best advice she can give to new parents entering the NICU is that it depends on the situation of the baby. A long time ago, it was very difficult to take care of the very small babies because it was difficult to control their temperature and much water would evaporate through their thin skin, causing problems with many organs and systems. Now, they have but they have Giraffe Incubators that control humidity, temperature, and everything for the baby needed to simulate living in the womb.
I then proceeded on a tour of the NICU and met a few babies that were almost ready to go home. Here I met baby John, wearing an owl hat that one of the nurses knits. Moms can choose an adorable hat for their little one to wear. The nurses also knit holiday themed hats and take photos for Mom for every holiday.
Baby John and his mother, I gifted him a little Cuddle and Kind doll.
There is a family library for parents to use computers, print, and fax for insurance needs, and stay in touch with family. There are also books they are encouraged to read to their babies. There is a state-of-the art family lounge where parents going through similar situations can dine together and support each other. Then there is something I thought was so very thoughtful, there are overnight rooms for the parents with full-size beds so they can stay with their baby if they so choose around the clock.
Parent Overnight Room
Milestone Cards Found in the Family Library
Absolutely overwhelmed with the care of this NICU, I asked what could Moms who empathize do to help? Dr. Kamtorn mentioned that they will have a Breast Milk Donation Program starting in July. Moms in New Jersey can donate their surplus breast milk to the NICU, which would be beyond helpful. She also mentioned that there is a Miracle Walk every year where you can sign up here. The annual walk has raised over $6 million for the Saint Barnabas NICU and has allowed them to help purchase 40 of those incredible Giraffe Incubators, as well as other top-of-the-line equipment.
So if you are that mother, just having brought your new baby to the Saint Barnabas NICU , take a deep breath and trust that your baby is in the best possible hands it could be. This team of doctors, nurses, and staff has thought of everything for you, your baby, your family, and this journey you are all on.