Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mother's intuition helps shape care of preemies

Kate and NICU nurse Lesa Gabbert
Kate McCasland’s premature birth 18 years ago made a difference for all preemies who have since come through the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth.

With the support of Kate’s caregivers, Mom Jane McCasland tried a simple technique she saw on a television documentary set in Africa to help with Kate’s progress. Kangaroo Mother Care, a now often-used method that involves simple skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby, provides a number of benefits including regulation of baby’s temperature and heartbeat and promotion of breastfeeding.

Today, on Kate’s 18th birthday, she and her mother were reunited with the doctors and nurses who cared for Kate while she was in the NICU.

“They helped Kate beat the odds,” Jane said of her daughter born at 25 weeks gestation. “As a parent, you don’t forget people like that.”

According to Dr. David Turbeville, neonatologist on the medical staff who cared for Kate 18 years ago, contact between parents and their premature babies used to be much more limited. Kate was very small and sick, so doctors were reluctant at first to try the Kangaroo Mother Care method.

But once nurses arranged for Jane and Kate to try the method, instantly they saw the benefits.

“Her heartbeat dropped, and within about three minutes she was sound asleep," Jane said. "She gained an ounce that very night. When you're talking about a baby who weighs 1 pound 7, that's a lot."

After seeing the improvements Kate made with this method, caregivers applied this technique with babies in the NICU and their parents moving forward.

“Now we encourage parents to have has much contact with their babies as possible,” Dr. Turbeville said. “Babies are more comfortable with parents in close contact. Studies show benefits such as a decrease in heart rate.”

Kate came home on her due date, almost four months after she was born. She’s now a high school senior who is passionate about newborn health and wants to become a neonatal nurse one day. She told her mom that it's a nice way to say "thank you" to the health workers who saved her life.

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