Everywhere Jacelia Cruz goes these days, her 20-day-old daughter Janiya Colon goes right along with her – on Jacelia’s laptop.
“She’s with me 24/7 following me around,” says the Bethlehem, Pa., mother, whose daughter was born prematurely Jan. 16, 2013, at 27 weeks. Janiya currently resides in one of the nine cribs at Children’s Hospital at Lehigh Valley Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) that is equipped with BabyCam. It’s a web camera service that allows her mom and dad, Samuel Colon, to check in on her as often as they like through an ongoing live video stream accessed through a secure web site.
“We thank God for this technology,” Cruz says. “Our family in the Lehigh Valley and in Florida can see her any time we want. Without it, I’d be living in the hospital. Leaving her would have been really hard for me.”
BabyCam, which was developed at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, had its official Lehigh Valley unveiling today. Tiny Janiya was the star of the show, with her live video stream beamed across a large screen, even though she slept through the entire event.
The technology has been in use in the NICU for six weeks now by 28 families, accessible by as many as three family users at once. To date, families have watched their new babies in live action for more than 6,000 hours.
“One family alone logged in 800 hours,” says Lorraine Dickey, MD, chief of neonatology. “They streamed the video right to their TV and left it on all the time.”
Dickey says BabyCam provides a much more important service than just a view of a newborn in a crib.
“Some of our smallest babies can spend up to three or four months with us,” Dickey says. “This presents a problem for the baby bonding with parents and family members at a crucial time. This technology offers an opportunity for that bonding, and families are taking advantage of it.”
The service at Children’s Hospital at Lehigh Valley Hospital is funded by the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust. The plan is to expand it to 15 cribs later this year.