Having your baby in the neonatal intensive care unit is never easy – let alone now during this Coronavirus pandemic. Many changes have been made to hospital protocols to ensure safety. For example, only one parent is allowed to visit their child at a time, and they must wear a mask.
NICU nurses say the masks, though they prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s harder for babies to see people’s faces and expressions, most importantly their parents. But thanks to one donor, mirrors are helping keep that bond between parent and baby alive.
Little Trey Hofmann has been in the NICU at Community Regional Medical Center since he was born at just 29 weeks. His mother Madison Hoffman visits him every day, but Trey hasn’t been able to see her face.
“I feel like you’re so disconnected with the mask, and you want them to be able to see your face and see your expression and unfortunately, but it’s necessary to wear the mask, you feel that disconnect there because you just want to kiss your baby’s face,” said Madison.
Clinical nurse educator Sarah Tharp said Madison and Trey were not alone in their struggle to connect.
Sarah stated, “Wearing the masks has really sort of affected our ability to communicate with our families. It’s affected our ability to communicate with the babies because we smile we talk to them.”
Sarah recognized the need to help babies and parents connect despite the face covering. She reached out to Christina Rodriguez, the founder of Amelia’s Angels Foundation, and long-time donor to Community Regional’s NICU.
Christina said, “I was in the NICU for I would say, almost seven months with my daughter. I had a daughter that was born at 24 weeks and five days she was one pound and ten ounces when she was born.”
Christina’s daughter Amelia passed away in 2017 at six months old. The mother knows all too well the struggles of being a parent to a baby in the NICU.
“Just this whole situation with COVID, I mean everyone is wearing a mask and I just kept thinking, how are mom and dad, they can’t look at their baby and have baby see their face,” added Christina.
So she donated mirrors: 50 handheld mirrors and ten mirrors for cribs.
Sarah commented, “One of the great ways a baby can bond with their parent is to do skin to skin, but they’re down here, they’re on their chest, so you can’t see what’s happening, plus now we have a mask in the way so it’s hard to see over that mask. So the handheld mirrors give that mom the ability to see her baby make sure they’re positioned properly.”
Madison added, “It allows us to see our baby and really bond with Trey. We feel more connected with him as we’re holding him and seeing his sweet face.”
Christina said she’s grateful amelia got to see her face, and it’s something she wishes for all parents in the NICU.
“It’s really important for them to be able to just explore our face and I could see she would look at my eyes she would track my movements. So I think that that’s something that any baby should be able to have,” commented Christina.
Both Sarah and Madison said it’s because of donors like Christina that they’re able to get through the hard times, emotionally difficult times in the NICU, and certainly through a pandemic.
“Thank you so much for your generous donation, it has been an amazing tool for us to use during our daily visits with Trey and we just so appreciate them,” ended Madison.