Lakela Williams spends six hours each day at the neonatal care unit at Valley Children’s Hospital, just to be near her son Davion.
It’s not enough.
“Sometimes, I wonder how my baby is doing at 2 o’clock in the morning,” says Williams, standing next to the incubator that holds her son. Davion, who was born prematurely on Jan. 7, has health problems that will keep him at Valley Children’s for several more months.
The hospital does allow for round-the-clock visitation for families like the Williamses.
It also knows that’s not always feasible.
So, last year it purchased 27 NICView cameras.
The small white boxes look a bit like office security cameras and attach to the patient’s bed. They livestream footage, in color, to an online portal that parents can access (with a passcode) on any internet device. The footage is encrypted and rendered in real-time; none of the video is recorded or stored, says Lynne Meccariello, the NICU’s supervisor of unit support.
For parents, the technology offers an extra level of comfort when they aren’t able to be in the room or, in some cases, in the same city.
Williams is originally from Pittsburgh but now lives in Bakersfield. She’s been able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, where families can stay at low or no cost while their children are hospitalized, but makes the two-hour drive back home every few days because she needs the break and because it’s nice to sleep in her own bed.
Her husband, Donte, makes it to the hospital mostly on weekends because of his job.
So, they use the NICView often.
“We’re hooked on it,” Williams says – even if sometimes the feed is just video of Davion’s feet.
It’s happened. The cameras can get bumped around when nurses and doctors check on the patients. In that case, there’s a toll-free number (and also a live chat function) parents can call to have the camera readjusted remotely. Parents can also call in with any questions or concerns – like, if they notice their baby is being extra fussy, Williams says.
That added level of scrutiny is just a bonus, Meccariello says.
“It’s really about implementing technology to promote and support family-centered care,” she says.
That means the whole family. Some parents use the NICView to introduce their infant to older siblings, who are not allowed into the NICU. Others share the passcode with relatives living in other parts of the country or world. In January alone, the hospital’s portal was accessed more than 4,000 times, from as far away as China and Australia, Meccariello says.
“It’s truly the next best thing.”
For now, the cameras are offered based on availability. Eventually, the hospital hopes to provide one for each NICU bed.
Eventually, Williams will run out of maternity leave and have return to work. She’ll be forced to spend even less time at the hospital.
Knowing she’ll be able to keep tabs on Davion via the NICView is nice, but this is her first child, conceived after three rounds of in vitro fertilization, she says.
“You want to be here 24-7.”
Kids Day 2018
When: Tuesday, March 6.
What: One of the main fund-raising efforts of the year for Valley Children’s Hospital. Special editions of The Bee will be hawked on street corners for $1, with all proceeds going to the hospital.
Who: The Bee and ABC 30 are the major partners supporting Kids Day.