'Peek-a-Boo' Cameras at Texas Health Dallas Connect Parents, NICU Babies
01/11/2013

DALLAS — The neonatal intensive care unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas is the first hospital in the region to offer an audio-video system that lets parents who can’t be at their child’s bedside see and talk to their baby any time of day from any computer. The web-based system also lets parents see their babies from any smartphone.

“Peek-a-Boo Neonatal ICU” is specially designed for parents whose sick babies have extended stays in the NICU. “The peek-a-boo cameras mean parents are never more than a click away from their child,” said Dr. Gerald Nystrom, medical director of neonatal medicine at Texas Health Dallas.

The system’s audio capabilities allow parents to talk and read to their children when they can’t be at the hospital. Specially-designed speaker systems inside each crib control the volume of the parent’s voice to soothe the baby and help parent and child bond.

“On the nights when I can’t be at the hospital, I read baby books to Duncan before we go to bed,” said Rockwall resident Sunny Jones, whose son was born 13 weeks premature on Dec. 17. “He opens his eyes and moves around like he recognizes my voice.”

She added: “If I’m upset and can’t sleep, I can turn on the computer at 3 a.m. and check on him. It’s reduced the stress and anxiety of not being right there.”

The real-time streaming crib cams were funded by a major gift to the Texas Health Presbyterian Foundation. The donation, which also funded the renovation of existing NICU space into parent sleeping rooms with hotel-like amenities, was made by Amy and Dan Hood of Dallas, whose son was born with a heart condition that causes narrowing of the main blood vessel that leaves the heart from the left ventricle. The boy spent one week in the Texas Health Dallas NICU before going home.

“It was a trying time for the parents, because they couldn’t be by their son’s side for diaper changes, feedings and checkups by nurses and doctors,” said Jay McAuley, president of the Texas Health Presbyterian Foundation. “So they wanted to give back and help other parents of NICU babies have that closer connection to their newborns. This is an example of philanthropy making a real difference in the lives of patients and their families.”

The “Peek-a-Boo Neonatal ICU” service and private rooms, the first of their kind in the region, are provided free-of-charge to parents with children in the hospital’s Level III NICU.

Approximately 6,000 babies are delivered each year at Texas Health Dallas’ Margot Perot Center for Women and Infants. More than 700 are admitted to the NICU, which provides specialized care for babies born prematurely or with series health complications. Some of these fragile babies are transferred from hospitals hundreds of miles away to the hospital’s nationally-renowned NICU.

Even for local families, the crib cams can provide the reassurance that everything is “OK” with their newborns, with some premature or low birth-weight babies staying in the unit for weeks, even months.

“Most parents simply can’t be here every minute of every day,” said Chris Brooks, M.S.N., R.N.C., nursing manger of the Level III NICU. “Many have to go back to work and can’t be by their baby’s side. With this system, just being able to see their baby means a mom and dad will be comforted knowing their little one is safe and sound.”

Brooks added that many mothers take maternity leave to be with their babies at home. If their child has an unforeseen stay in the NICU, some mothers elect to go back to work to save leave time to be with their baby after being discharged from the hospital. Other times, a new mom can’t be by her baby’s side because of her own medical issues from delivery or ongoing illness.

“This type of interaction can reduce stress and facilitate bonding for new parents,” Nystrom said. “It’s a great system, especially in situations in which medical issues prevent mothers from being in the NICU with their babies.”

The system is run through a secure Web site that requires a special password for each family. Moms and dads can allow other family members to access the system.

“It also provides the opportunity to celebrate the births and share their new additions with friends and families without having to wait until the babies are home,” said Cole Edmonson, D.N.P., R.N., FACHE, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer at Texas Health Dallas.

About Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas is an 898-bed acute care hospital and recognized clinical program leader, having provided compassionate care to the residents of Dallas and surrounding communities since 1966. U.S. News and World Report has ranked Texas Health Dallas among the nation’s best hospitals in digestive disorders, orthopedics, and neurology and neurosurgery. An affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, Texas Health Dallas has approximately 4,000 employees and an active medical staff of more than 1,000 physicians. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org/Dallas.