When Baby Carlito was born at just 24 weeks, his situation was precarious. Like most pre-term babies, his lungs were under-developed. He also had cardiovascular complications and severe gastrointestinal issues. His mother was frantic. “I was so worried but the staff here at Elmhurst was fantastic and really communicated well with me and my family,' recalled Carlito’s mother, who visited her son every day for 4 months in Elmhurst’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and recently sent the hospital a letter of thanks for the care he received. “The doctors and nurses were warm and friendly and made sure to keep me updated on his progress, which I really appreciated.'
“When Baby Carlito was born, he was so small he could fit in the palm of your hand,' said Serena Espinola, RN, one member of the team of doctors and nurses who helped care for the infant. “We knew that his family was having a hard time. But in the NICU we really try to involve the parents in the baby’s care. Parents can come and visit the baby any time. We also show them how to feed the baby using breast milk and how to hold the infants and change their diapers. We encourage them to talk to their babies and decorate the outside of their incubators with family photos. We think it’s really important to involve the parents as much as possible.'
The NICU staff also works with Social Work to help families like Carlito’s cope with the stress of dealing with a critically-ill infant as well as prepare them to eventually go home. “We teach parents how to do CPR, which is especially important for pre-term infants as their under-developed lungs often lead to breathing problems, and we also discuss safe sleeping practices such as not sleeping in the bed with an infant and making sure an infant is placed on their back [to prevent SIDS].'
Elmhurst’s team-based approach and emphasis on parental involvement has been really beneficial for little Carlito, whose mother says he has been growing nicely since leaving the hospital three weeks ago. “He loves to smile...and eat. I am so happy that we came to Elmhurst!"