For Corey and Tonya Lindsey, finding out their baby had health complications was a frightening experience. However, confidence in the experienced nursing staff of Blank Children's Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) helped ease the worries that came with the arrivals of both their children.
Four days after the Lindseys' second child, Maizee, was born on July 24, 2002, it was determined that she had high levels of bilirubin in her blood. If left untreated, elevated bilirubin can cause a number of health complications, including brain damage, hearing loss, physical abnormalities, problems with the muscles that move the eyes or even death.
In an effort to normalize her bilirubin levels, Maizee was transported by ambulance to the Blank Children's NICU, where she underwent phototherapy.
"Physicians and nurses initially thought Maizee would need a blood transfusion," says Tonya. "I don't know how to explain what we were feeling-it was unknown territory. From the minute we were admitted, however, the staff gave us all the facts. They weren't trying to scare us, but they let us know what was happening, what could happen and what they would do if further complications arose."
Making an Interesting Discovery
Having been a Blank Children's NICU baby himself, Corey had heard throughout his life of the wonderful nurse who cared for him during his 37-day stay in the unit. When Corey asked whether or not "Linda Smith" still worked at the NICU, Linda Carter happened to overhear her maiden name.
"She came around the corner and said, 'I'm Linda Smith,'" says Corey. "When Linda began caring for Maizee, I didn't worry as much anymore. I knew that she took good care of me, so I knew that would carry over with my daughter. It significantly eased my stress level."
Getting Maizee Home to Stay
Maizee spent six days in the NICU at Blank Children's Hospital under a bili light - a device used to deliver phototherapy treatments. Phototherapy with a bili light exposes an infant's bare skin to fluorescent light, which helps break bilirubin down into a nontoxic form that can exit the body.
"My biggest fear was that having Maizee under the bili light so frequently would keep her from wanting to be cuddled," says Tonya. "Even though her time out of the bili light was limited, we were encouraged to touch and cuddle her as often as we could."
Maizee was sent home with a bili blanket used for at-home phototherapy treatments. After testing Maizee's blood daily for about three weeks, physicians determined her liver was mature enough to control the levels of bilirubin in her body on its own. Today, Maizee is a healthy 7 year old who loves being outside, spending time with her friends and dancing.
Throughout her third pregnancy, Tonya made more visits to a specialist than she had while pregnant with Maizee. She is Rh-negative and was sensitized during her pregnancy with Maizee, making her pregnancy with Macson higher risk. Essentially, this means that Macson's blood did not match Tonya's, and her body reacted to his blood in the way it would an allergen-it developed antibodies that attacked Macson's red blood cells, causing him to be anemic at the time of his birth on March 9, 2009. Macson also had high bilirubin levels, and his lungs weren't properly developed.
Knowing that complications could stem from Tonya's Rh factor, physicians prepared to respond quickly.
"As soon as Macson was delivered, the doctor brought me over to the table and walked me step-by-step through what he was doing," says Corey. "He explained that Macson was having trouble breathing and that he would be given oxygen. At the same time, the doctor prepared the umbilical cord to be used for blood transfusions."
After receiving oxygen from a mask blowing on his face, Macson began breathing on his own. He did, however, require blood transfusions-first during his eight-day stay in the NICU and then several days later when he again became anemic and was readmitted.
"Macson was much sicker than his sister," says Linda. "But because of the trust his parents placed in Blank Children's Hospital and the NICU, I believe it was easier for them to cope."
Less than a month shy of a year old, Macson, like his sister, is doing very well.
Outstanding Communication, Outstanding Care
Throughout both experiences with the Blank Children's NICU, Corey and Tonya were impressed with how physicians and nurses maintained open communication and kept the family informed.
According to Linda, this is just what the staff strives to do.
"We love babies, and the NICU experience presents challenges that working with healthy newborns usually would not," says Linda. "We are very protective of our patients and their families and are continually looking for new ways to help them succeed."