by Arnold Nelson


This story talks about my volunteering in the NICU. All the fun i have had and some of the things I have learned

I am retired now so most of the time I don't do a lot. I work on the computer or watch TV, but on Wednesday mornings and Friday afternoons I do something very special. I go over to the local hospital and I go into the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and I hold babies, it is so much fun. The babies I hold are preemies, they are born too soon and need extra care so they are brought into the NICU. I really feel like I belong there the nurses are always so good to me it is always so much fun holding the babies.

It is a win win win win situation for everybody. First the babies win because they get the extra care and attention they need. The nurses win because that is one less baby they have to be concerned with while I'm holding it. The parents win because their babies get the extra attention they need when they can't be there. I win because it's so much fun, where else could old man like me get to hold so many beautiful babies.

All the babies that come into the NICU have problems. One of the most common problems I see is babies who don't know how to suck. If they can't suck, they can't drink from a bottle. If they can't drink from a bottle, they can't eat. If they can't eat they die.

Years ago it was a serious problem. They tried to get the babies to suck, but they couldn't do it and most of the babies died trying. So today they have another system. It is called a feeding tube. A tiny little tube that they put in the baby's nose and run it down into the stomach. Then they tape it to the side of the babies face so the baby can't accidentally pull out. When it's time to feed the baby they put the milk in a syringe. They put the syringe on a little machine that sits next to the babies bed. There is a tube that runs from the syringe to the feeding tube. When the machine is turned on, the machine slowly pushes to milk into the baby stomach. That way the baby can eat until it is mature enough to learn how to suck milk from a bottle.

I have a nephew who was born about four years ago. When he was born he weighed 1 pound. That's not very much, a few years ago that would have been certain death. Today with all the advances in medicine he survived and he is a strong four-year-old boy now.

Most normal babies weigh about 7 or 8 pounds when they are born. Most preemies will weigh about half that, about 3 or 4 pounds. So he was small even for preemie. He's spent nine months in the NICU. He finally graduated and went home. That's what they call it when the baby leaves the NICU. They call it a graduation.

My granddaughter was born about a year and a half ago. She was two months premature. They put her right into the NICU. They put her in what is called an Isolet. She stayed in NICU 2 months. Then she graduated. She is doing real well now. Most babies go into the isolet as soon as they get to the NICU. That way the doctors and the nurses can control everything that happens to that baby. The isolet it is a plastic box with a mattress in it. It's got two small holes on each side so the doctors and nurses can stick their hands in and take care of the baby . The sides also open so that they can put the baby in and take the baby out. The first thing they do when the baby comes into the NICU is hookup monitors. They want to know everything that happened to the baby as soon as it happens. That way they can be right there to take care of any problems .

After the baby gets bigger and stronger. It is put into an open bed. Those are the babies I get to hold most of time. I have held babies that were in isolets a couple of times. That was only when the nurses asked for my help. Those tiny babies were so small and fragile I was almost afraid to hold him. Everything went fine and after about 15 or20 min. the nurses took them back.

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