“We were told we should no longer visit our son Rory in intensive care,” Law told CNN Business. “We said goodbye to him and went home.”
The couple now logs in to him twice a day via Apple’s FaceTime video chat platform when a nurse calls at set times, when he feeds or takes a bath.
“We are relieved to have the option to FaceTime with our son and we understand why there is a policy, but I would be lying if I did not admit that I cried for days,” said Law.
Julianna Grogan, a New York City mother who was diagnosed with COVID-19 before the birth of her daughter on April 2, told CNN Business that her husband and Doula cheered her on during FaceTime delivery because they had no access Room. “You were watching all the time,” she said. “Fortunately, I had a stand with a clip to attach my cell phone to the bed.”
The Metropolitan Hospital Center nurses are now recovering alone in their hospital room, both from birth and from the virus. They use FaceTime regularly throughout the day so that they can see their baby.
Some hospitals have a more formal process. At Northwestern Medicine’s Prentice Women’s Hospital, which now only visits one parent in the intensive care unit, an app called Smart NICU2Home enables babies to be checked in remotely. Parents can get all-day information on their child’s vital signs, including breathing, weight, bowel movements, and medication, and access to mental health features such as stress reduction techniques.
“As Covid-19 spread and hospitals closed the doors to visitors, we found that this was a tremendous and necessary connection for parents to their new babies,” said Northwestern Pediatrics Professor Dr. Craig Garfield, who also works at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Together with the northwestern associate professor Dr. Young Seok Lee launched the app a few years ago for a small group of the sickest babies in the intensive care unit, but launched it for all families in the special unit last week.
“While it is difficult for anyone to have a loved one in the hospital and not be able to visit them, new parents are particularly traumatized because they have been waiting months and months to become mothers and fathers,” added Garfield.
Parents receive secure credentials when their baby is admitted to the intensive care unit. All 49 NICU beds are now equipped with Logitech webcams.
While remote interaction with a newborn may seem impersonal, Dr. Kristin Hoffman of UC Davis demonstrated that parents are still able to connect to babies effectively this way, especially when it comes to supporting breastfeeding – a problem for many families with babies in the USA NICU. “From our previous research, we know that families who used FamilyLink were more likely to have an ongoing intent to breastfeed – breast milk is like medicine, especially for young babies, and so this finding is very exciting,” she said.
Although the bond with babies from afar is not what many parents imagine, for many it becomes a new normal.
“We were asked if we wanted to use FaceTime to see our daughter and it was amazing,” said 28-year-old Mairead McKenna, who recently gave birth to her daughter Harper at 26 weeks. “But I’m also fighting so hard not to see her.”
The Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, asked her to stay away from the intensive care unit temporarily because she was uncomfortable with symptoms that had nothing to do with COVID-19.
“I fear in the coming days or weeks [the hospital] will keep all parents from visiting because it is likely to get worse before it gets better, “said McKenna.” I suspect this will be our new setup [for awhile now]. “