As a twin mom, it was vital that I kept the babies “cooking” in my belly as long as possible. Being high risk – just because I was a twin pregnancy – could have resulted in my babies being born too early. If they were too early, or preemies, they would have had to stay in the NICU for an indeterminate amount of time. Our doctors and specialists prepared us for this outcome by explaining what the NICU is like and by having us deliver at a “Level 3 NICU” hospital.
I was able to keep the twins inside me until they were full term. I was one of the lucky ones. Most multiple parents aren’t as lucky. Their reality is visiting their new babies in the NICU and not having them at home with the family. As a parent, I am in awe of what NICU doctors and nurses do on a daily basis and the equipment that is available for helping these little ones survive.
However, not all hospitals have this equipment available.
And, the United States is ranked 6th in the world for premature births.
Brave Beginnings is ensuring ventilators and other life-saving neonatal equipment is available to all hospitals in the United States. Brave Beginnings is the neonatal grant program of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, established in memory of humanitarian and entertainer Will Rogers. Since its inception, Brave Beginnings has been able to donate life-saving equipment to hospitals across the country.
I was given the opportunity to interview Todd Vradenburg, the Executive Director of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation about the good things that Brave Beginnings is doing in our hospitals across the country.
What is a preemie?
Preemie is a nickname for a premature, or preterm, infant. A birth is considered “preterm” when a child is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy have been completed.
As a mother, what sort of things can my children and I do to help raise awareness of premature babies in the United States?
The BB program shares a similar mission as Children’s Miracle Network, both organizations are providing resources to hospitals so infants and children receive the absolute best care possible. We need people to: 1. Learn about the preemie crises going on in the US, March of Dimes is trying to help curtail the problem, but they need help spreading the word about prenatal health. 2. Donate to Brave Beginnings and organizations like Children’s Miracle Network until hospitals have all the equipment that they need. 3. Spread the word to your social media network, friends and family that there are many babies that will be kids and adults someday and all of us have a duty to help the babies get the best start possible. And ask your friends to take a look at Brave Beginnings, help us put ourselves out of business.
What types of issues can premature babies have? Do any issues surface later in life? Important growth and development occur throughout pregnancy – especially in the final months and weeks. Because they are born too early, preemies weigh much less than full-term babies. They may have health problems because their organs did not have enough time to develop. Preemies need special medical care in a NICU where they stay until their organ systems can work on their own. 46% of all preemies born at 28 weeks face lifelong complications such as, chronic lung disease, blindness, life-threatening intestinal inflammation and cognitive delays.
What types of equipment does a NICU need to help care for premature babies?
In any given modern NICU there are more than 20 pieces of equipment that are vital to the well-being of preemies. Two of the most commonly requested pieces of equipment are Giraffe Omnibeds and Transport units.
- Giraffe Omnibed – is state-of-the-art equipment which provides premature and ill babies with a controlled, stress-reduced environment, much like that of the mother’s womb. It helps regulate body temperature and features humidity control to avoid moisture loss through thin skin. The OmniBed has a mattress that can be rotated 360 degrees and large drop down doors providing quick and easy access from both sides. The beds have a built-in scale for weighing and an unobtrusive X-ray tray if scans are needed. Most NICU babies are too fragile to tolerate the movement and temperature changes necessitated when using a simple incubator. Babies on ventilators can lose their breathing tube when moved, putting the infant in severe respiratory distress and greatly compromising their medical status. The physical act of moving a critical infant, especially from one environment to another, causes additional physiological stress, which does not aid in the healing process for the infant.
- Airborne 750i Transport Incubator – This device is used to transport a baby from either a transferring hospital to a higher level NICU, or can be used to transport a baby within the hospital where it was born. It can function like a portable intensive care unit and allows the delivery team to provide high-level care to infants until they can be safely admitted to the NICU. A specialized transport incubator provides a warm, safe environment for a baby up to 15 pounds. The incubator has a built-in ventilator to help babies breathe air or pure oxygen. It also has technology to monitor a baby’s heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, blood pressure and oxygen level. When minutes – even seconds – count, the availability of important medical equipment like this transport isolette makes all the difference.
How can my readers help premature babies in the United States?
There are many wonderful organizations working to help premature babies in the United States. Brave Beginnings focuses on providing the healthcare workers with the equipment they need to save little lives. Other groups such as, the Preemie Project in Iowa, seek to provide comfort and support to critically ill infants and their families in the NICU. They achieve their mission through the support of a devoted group of local and national volunteers. The volunteers knit, crochet and sew items such as hats, blankets, isolette/incubator covers, booties that are given to the families as they begin their NICU journey. Your readers can help by promoting organizations such as Preemie Project via social media, providing them with handmade items or even start a similar organization in their hometown! Donating to groups such as these, as well as spreading the word about their mission, can help save the lives of preemies across the country.
I have heard of the “golden hour” after birth, how does this factor into preemie care?
The care given to a premature newborn, in the first hour after birth, is crucial for long-term health of the child. Complications such as blindness, bleeding inside the skull, life-threatening intestinal inflammation, respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia are common among the earliest preemies. If hospitals have the right equipment, it can be a matter of life and death because the baby will not need to be transported to a facility that can provide the crucial services needed to combat these life-threatening ailments.
Every preemie deserves a fighting chance.
This post was written for social good. No compensation was received. All information and pictures used with permission.