AKRON, Ohio (FOX8) – Having a newborn in a neonatal intensive care unit can be very hard on a family but new technology is helping parents feel more connected to their premature babies than ever before.
The average stay in the NICU at Akron Children’s Hospital is 31 days but many premature infants, like little Mila Nauer, will be there for months.
Mila was born on September 24 — 12 weeks early. When she arrived, she weighed 1 pound, 8 ounces.
She may not be able to go home until her original anticipated due date in December.
Her dad, Chris Nauer, said he took a week off after Mila was born to be with his wife and newborn daughter, but had to go back to work.
“During the day now, I get to come here a little bit on the weekends. I spend the majority of time here but leaving is always hard, you know? I always read her a book or two before I leave, tell her I love her,” Chris said.
His wife, Hillary, stays with Mila but has to break away at times to go home to shower and change clothes.
Because Akron Children’s Hospital is a regional facility, some of the families with newborns in its NICU live as far as two or more hours away.
For the past month, however, the hospital has been able to give those parents and their extended families the ability to stay at their newborn’s bedside even when they cannot be there in person.
New cameras, called NicView, allow families to log in and see their infant from any laptop, computer or cell phone.
“When we first set this up, there was a particular family that dad had to travel to Florida for a one-week period and he was able then to connect,” said Kim Firestone, with Akron Children’s Hospital. “He said to me, ‘I really didn’t think I would connect that often and I found out I wanted to be connected almost all of the time.'”
The cameras are protected with what the hospital describes as “bank-level security.”
Only parents and those with whom they share their login information can access the live video.
They are the result of brainstorming with hospital staff and the chief nursing officer.
It’s made possible by contributions through a charity called Walk For Babies, which raised enough money to have a total of 118 cameras installed, including one at each of the 75 NICU beds at the Akron hospital and others at the hospital’s Boardman location.
In just the first month, the hospital has recorded more than 12,000 logins from as far away as California and Mexico.
“That shows, to me and to the rest of our staff, that families are interested,” Firestone said. “They want to see their babies, their families want to see their babies and I think from talking to the families, it helps make them feel more secure.”
The cameras actually went online the day Mila was born, giving her mother a chance to see her while she was in a different hospital.
“I wasn’t able to come over for 24 hours,” Hillary said. “I had to heal and let the anesthesia wear off, so we were able to set the camera up in my hospital room, and I was able to see her and watch her, so that was important to me. To be able to feel more connected to her during that time as well.”
For her husband, having the ability to see his newborn daughter from his office at Cuyahoga Falls High School not only helps him feel closer, but it also gives him a chance to show off his new family to coworkers and others.
“You can see her open her eyes a little bit and do her yawns or whatever and then, you know, I’m always testing the wife. I’m like, ‘Hey, I see her hands here’ or ‘I hear this’ or ‘Hear a beep.’ So we are just in constant communication,” Chris said.
“He can text me or call me during work and say, ‘Did you see her move her eyebrows? Did you see her move her hands?’ And so he can be a part of our day too,” Hillary said.
She agreed the cameras help them all feel more connected.