Hospital helps tiny NICU patient see, hear family
Families spending weeks or longer in the NICU at the Nebraska Medical Center now have a new tool to connect with loved ones.
Lindsey DeHoek’s son, Ethan, may be tiny, but he knows his momma’s voice.
“Can you give us a smile?” she coos to him. Ethan, several months only but only a few pounds, looks at his mom and smiles.
These are the moments Lindsey waits for and cherishes.
“He was born three months premature and about two weeks after he was born, we found out his intestines were dead,” said Lindsey. “It's hard [hearing], 'well, he won't make it'. And then coming here, and they're saying, 'he will make it', it was a breath of fresh air.
The DeHoek family is from Grand Rapids, Michigan. A nurse at a hospital there told the DeHoeks about the Nebraska Medical Center, home to a prominent intestinal rehab program.
Ethan DeHoek has been in the NICU since September, waiting for an intestinal transplant. The hope his family found in Omaha is welcome, but a long way from home.
Lindsey quit her job in July to be with her youngest son. She commutes back and forth between Omaha and Grand Rapids. Husband, Brian DeHoek, as well as big brother Parker, mostly stay back in Michigan.
“When we were back home, [Parker] saw him every day,” said Lindsey. “Now, he doesn’t see him for awhile.”
A new program in the NICU at the Nebraska Medical Center has shortened that distance. It’s called NOW ICU.
“Abby came up to me and said, ‘we have Skype. Would you like to try it?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely!’ said Lindsey.
Abby Saunders is the family’s Support Specialist, working with the March of Dimes for the Nebraska Medical Center. She sets up NOW ICU, a Skype system for families in the NICU, allowing video and audio communication to anywhere in the world.
“Before NOW ICU, there really wasn't a way for parents to see their babies if they weren't physically able to be here,” said Saunders.
Saunders says the program not only makes families feel more emotionally connected, there is also research that shows family involvement improves a patient’s well being.
“Just smiles all around,” described Saunders. “Just being excited. Just seeing the baby, people tear up because it just means a lot to them.”
KETV was there as Lindsey and Ethan visited with Brian and Parker using NOW ICU. With a few button pushes, and some camera aiming, the DeHoeks were reunited.
“Say hi to your brother!” said Brian DeHoek.
“Hi, Buddy!” said Parker, 5.
“The first time we tried, it was just so awesome,” said Lindsey. “I hadn't seen him in a couple of weeks, so we saw him, and it just brings a smile to your face, because you can just see him. It just makes you feel good.”
For Brian DeHoek, a trip to Omaha is a 10 hour drive each way. While he’s at home, working and taking care of Parker, NOW ICU is a way to keep his family connected.
“I don't want to say it shortens the distance, but it really does,” said Brian, via NOW ICU. “It seems like you are in the same room with me even though you are hundreds of miles away.”
And this way, Dad and Big Brother can catch those special moments, too. Like the smile Ethan flashed for his dad during the NOW ICU session, just as he had shown his mom moments before.
“Did you see him smile?” said an excited Lindsey.
“Yeah!” replied Brian.
The DeHoeks were the first family to use the NOW ICU system at the Nebraska Medical Center. Several families are now using it in the NICU alone.
Ethan’s parents hope his surgery will provide him a chance at a normal life.
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