Cameras connect families to NICU babies

Parents of premature newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are often forced to spend time away from their child within their first weeks of life. To ease the anxiety of this separation, particularly around the holidays, the Greenville Health System (GHS) Bryan NICU combines technology and holiday traditions to keep parents engaged with their newborns virtually, using the Angel Eye camera system to provide comfort and security remotely.

During the week of Halloween, NICU staff dress the newborns in costumes to celebrate the holiday. These and other moments can then be viewed by family and friends via the newly available Angel Eye camera system, which is placed at a baby’s bedside and allows parents and family members to see and interact with the baby through live video streaming and direct one-way audio. Parents receive a unique code that can be used to set up a password to their baby’s individual camera, which they can then share with family and friends. The cameras are turned on for families to view the babies except during nursing time and during medical procedures.

As families are viewing their newborns, something as simple as their infant dressed in a Halloween costume can help provide a sense of lightheartedness and normalcy for families in the midst of an otherwise stressful situation. Jared Trudel, father of newborn Ava, has used the Angel Eye camera to monitor his daughter’s progress during her prolonged stay in the NICU. Ava was born at 26 weeks and was admitted to the NICU to further her lung development before she can be sent home. During this time, the camera has even allowed Trudel to share Ava’s progress with his parents, who live in Sydney, Australia.

“I’m not able to be there in person all the time, but with the Angel Eye camera I can tune in while I’m at work,” said Trudel. “I feel like I’m a part of Ava’s earliest days, even when we’re separated. And seeing her dressed up as a fairy for Halloween brings an instant smile to my face, knowing that she’s being cared for so well.”

For parents who are unable to be by their child’s bedside 24/7, the Angel Eye camera has additional physical and psychological benefits, including helping mothers with lactation and helping introduce the newborn to younger siblings who cannot be present in the NICU.

GHS has 37 Angel Eye cameras available, one for each bed in the intensive part of the NICU. The cameras have been in use since August 1.

“Knowing that the baby is sleeping or resting comfortably helps ease parents’ anxiety and makes the separation more bearable,” said Rachel Balck, March of Dimes NICU Family Support Program Coordinator. “The cameras also ensure that families don’t miss special milestones, such as first seeing their faces after a ventilator is removed, getting a bath or dressing up in their first Halloween costumes. While we love parents to be part of these moments, the reality is that they can’t be there all the time. Having the cameras helps us share these moments with parents and family during times that they can’t be at the bedside.”

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