AKRON, Ohio – Having a newborn in a neonatal intensive care unit can be very hard on a family.
The average stay in 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, twelve weeks early. When she arrived, she was 1 pound, 8 ounces.
She may not be able to go home until her original anticipated due date in December.
Her dad, Chris Nauer, says 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,” said Chris.
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 is 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 and extended 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 and 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,'” said Kim Firestone of Akron Children’s Hospital.
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, the chief nursing officer, and 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 the others at the hospital’s Mahoning County locations.
In just the first month the hospital has recorded more than 12,000 log-ins from as far away as California and Mexico.
“That shows to me and to the rest of our staff that families are interested; 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,” said Firestone.
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 where Mila was born.
“I wasn’t able to come over for 24 hours. 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,” said Hillary.
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 co-workers 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,” said Chris.
“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,” said Hillary.
“The cameras definitely help us all to feel connected,” she added.