Medical Crisis +
My Little Waiting Room® =
A young family in crisis gains peace of mind.
With their older children safely cared for, two parents help their preemie baby fight for life.
It is 9 a.m. on an October morning at My Little Waiting Room®, and Grace and Elsa have just arrived from Salem with their mother Sara Edmonds. Staff greet each child before they scamper off to their favorite spots. Three-year-old Elsa begins laying toy train tracks across the shiny bamboo floor, building bridges and tunnels for the magnetic train cars to navigate. Five-year-old Grace runs to a bookcase just her size and selects a favorite book, Ramona the Pest, and settles into a beanbag chair to read. Both girls are happily occupied as their mother says goodbye and then takes the elevator upstairs to visit Nora, their baby sister, who is growing stronger every day.
Little Nora’s home for the past six weeks has been the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. She is surrounded by machines and tubes monitoring her vital signs and providing her with oxygen and nourishment. Most pregnancies last between 37 and 41 weeks. Nora was born at week 25.
Her hand wraps around her mother's thumb, just covering the top of it. Sara sits and a nurse delicately carries the tiny bundle to her. “Normally, when you have a newborn, you don’t have to think about having to visit her,” Sara says. “I want to be as much of a parent as I can while she’s here in the NICU and be able to focus on bonding with her.”
Six weeks earlier, recovering from an emergency C-section, Sara wasn’t sure how they would manage childcare for Grace and Elsa.
Parents play a crucial role in the care team for premature babies, according to Susan Hasty, Nurse Manager of the NICU. While doctors, nurses, nutritionists, and therapists see to the babies’ medical needs, parents provide something intangible. “We can hold babies, but there’s a loving care that only parents can give,” Hasty says.
What’s more, having parents present means they can engage in “kangaroo care”, in which a baby lays on a parent’s chest and has skin-to-skin contact. This closeness encourages bonding, but Hasty says it also impacts the babies’ overall health. “We see a decrease in the baby’s demand for extra oxygen; their heart rate drops to a healthy level; their circulation and digestion improve. Everything is so much better if parents can have that contact.”
Little Nora’s well being depended on parents who could be present, yet their home in Salem was a three hour round trip. Sara needed to find a safe haven for her other two girls.
A friend found information about My Little Waiting Room – a free, drop-in childcare center located at the hospital. My Little Waiting Room intervenes at a stressful time in families’ lives. Whether that’s welcoming a new baby or visiting a sick child, a parent undergoing surgery or medical treatment like chemotherapy, My Little Waiting Room provides that safe haven where children are nurtured and stimulated, away from overwhelming and potentially scary hospital situations.
At first, Sara didn’t know how they would handle the transition, but her concerns were allayed when both Grace and Elsa took to the activities and staff at My Little Waiting Room right away.
“When they wake up in the morning, they ask if it’s a day we go to the hospital,” Sara says.
So while Grace and Elsa are playing trains and reading books, Sara is participating in Nora’s daily care, from feeding to diaper changes, helping her become more comfortable caring for a fragile baby who may have special care needs, even when she goes home.
Baby Nora has a long road ahead of her. Today her lungs are still developing, and she has difficulty swallowing. But as long as she is in the hospital, My Little Waiting Room will be there, supporting the Edmonds family through this difficult time.
“My Little Waiting Room has been a huge blessing and relief,” Sara says. “It gives me a lot of peace to know that my children are in a place they enjoy with people who genuinely care for them.”
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