June 29, 2017: In the sea of life, we, humans have been gifted with some incredible abilities that can make the world a beautiful abode for our race. One of the best gifts that mankind cherishes is the gift of nourishment; one’s ability to nourish and enrich another on this earth.
Nourishing an infant and taking care of a child is the purest form of love. It can be the best offering in one’s entire life. The Hollis J. Wiseman Neonatal Intensive Care unit at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital (NICU), has dedicated itself on providing that offering to premature babies, which is one commendable service!
At present, the unit is in dire need of upgraded tools and equipment to provide advanced care to the most fragile form of human life. Hence, a new donation campaign has been initiated and everyone is urged to spread awareness about the unit and join hands to help their cause.
On the occasion of acknowledging, applauding and most importantly spreading awareness about the initiative of NICU at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital; I (Reporter Antara Kumar of NewsGram) engaged in a discussion with Dr. Om Prakash Jha, a Neonatologist in the hospital, where he enlightens us about his perspectives and the functions of NICU.
AK: What causes a premature birth?
OJ: The survival of a baby developing inside mother depends on oxygen and nutrients supplied through the placenta. The placenta acts like a vacuum, soaking up everything the baby needs. This process should ideally go on for 40 weeks allowing appropriate growth of all the organ systems in the baby. Significant compromise to the function of the placenta any time before 40 weeks causes the baby to go into distressed needing them to be brought out either spontaneously or by C-section.
AK: What kind of major intensive medical care does a premature baby, born 4 months early, require?
OJ: When babies are born three or four months early, there are multiple organ systems at risk including brain, lungs, heart, intestines and, the largest organ in human body, the skin. These infants need to be kept on ventilator machines to help them breathe, and inside temperature controlled boxes effectively ‘incubating’ them outside of mother. Feeding is a major issue either they don’t feed altogether or if attempted they feed into their lungs, also their intestines have a tendency to abruptly die out because they might not be ready to handle feeds. Spontaneous bleeding in the brains is also a major concern.
” For obvious reasons taking care of preemies is heavily dependent on expensive infrastructure and specialized equipment “
AK: What are the aspects that make NICU at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital, a unique facility for Neonatal care?
OJ: Our NICU at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital is a huge unit with capacity to accommodate 100 sick neonates with an average census in the 80’s. This unit has two decades of experience with saving infants born 4 months early or at 22 weeks gestational age. The survival of infants treated in our NICU rates in the top 10th centile nationally.
AK: In the service that NICU provides, what are the challenges that are faced regularly?
OJ: The personnel and passion to save these fragile babies is there, but equipment and resources become the limiting factor for the quality of care that we can provide. Looking at the bigger picture there is still a lot of research that needs to be done to improve the outcomes with regard to preventing and treating brain bleeds and lung failures.
AK: How do you deal with those challenges?
OJ: At the local level we setup awareness camps and walks, to raise funds for improving services to the premature infants both during the hospital stay and following discharge. Advent of social media has created a platform to help spread awareness to the masses at a scale previously unimaginable. It was purely by chance that we stumbled upon the ‘Hair Raising Challenge’.
One day during the course of routine work in the NICU, a couple of nurses dressed their hair like trolls. Seeing beyond what was visible, it got me thinking that there is a deeper meaning to what they did with their hair. A little historical context to understand why we chose ‘hair raising’ , in ancient times many cultures would place babies born 3-4 month early on the ground, knowing that Nature’s default for them is inevitable death. In the last few decades, NICU personnel everywhere have ‘raised them up’ and fought against Natures default to save these fragile lives.
In an attempt for regular people to appreciate the work of NICU personnel and the grit of preemie’s themselves, we created a challenge for everyone to counter another law of Nature, the law of gravity and raise their hair up. We also request that they make a donation to our hospital or any hospital of their choice that provides care to premature babies. These donations would firstly help us provide the best possible care and secondly provide funding for research to improve the outcome in premature babies.
AK: How long have you been connected to NICU at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital? Could you brief your experience a bit?
OJ: I have been with USA C&W NICU for close to 2 years and I have seen firsthand, the camaraderie among staff members, and their passion for saving preemie babies is second to none.
” We request that they make a donation to our hospital or any hospital of their choice that provides care to premature babies”
AK: What are the ways to improve the service?
OJ: For obvious reasons taking care of preemies is heavily dependent on expensive infrastructure and specialized equipment, and with changing technologies it needs to be changed or replenished often.
AK: What are the tools and techniques and machines required for improvement?
OJ: The usual equipment needed for basic care on extremely premature babies are Incubator, Neonatal Ventilator, Transport Isolette, an array of monitoring devices and infusion pumps, and consumables like central line sets, lumbar puncture trays just to name a few.
AK: How successful has the fundraising been till date?
OJ: In the first few days of starting the challenge, we have had overwhelming participation from families and friends of NICU “graduates” in the southern Alabama and southern Mississippi region.
Let us come forward and make the mission of NICU, a successful and glorious one!