Meredith Anderson">

NICU needs beds for miracle babies

preemie in bed

The NICU at MCG's Children's Medical Center is home to dozens of miracle babies at a time.

If good things come in small packages, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at MCG's Children's Medical Center is better than good. It's great.

Rashina Halliburton's daughter was in NICU for months.

"She was born January 20th at 26 weeks," Rashina told News 12.

"26 weeks? How much did she weigh?" we asked.

"A pound and a half."

Being that tiny, Eliana had a big fight ahead of her. It was a fight that she won.

"It is our first baby," Rashina said. "We had a miscarriage before - a little boy that we had - so she's our miracle baby."

Rashina isn't the only mother with a miracle in the NICU. All the babies in the ward are little miracles. Some were born so small that they have to spend the first four months of their lives in a bed that mimics their mother's womb.

"These beds are the mack daddy of beds," said Gina Brandenburg. She would know. She's worked in the NICU at MCG for ten years.

"With all of these new and updated and awesome things, it allows the little ones who didn't survive years ago...because of this technology, it allows them to survive," Gina said.

Right now, the NICU has only 24 of these "mack daddy" beds, but there can be as many as 40 babies in here at a time. Gina wishes she had 40 beds, but that's not all. She only has two transport isolets.

"(The transport isolet) allows us, if they need oxygen, there's a ventilator on the bed," Gina said. "If they just need oxygen, we can provide oxygen. They are monitored the whole time, and it's that heated environment that they need, especially when they are really tiny."

A lot of babies here are really tiny, so this is always in high demand.

"Four or five babies have to be at different tests at the same time, but we have to wait until we can get a bed available," Gina said.

Waiting is something Gina is used to. Babies born early usually aren't ready to go home until their due date. That can be months and months. Sometimes, time is the best medicine.

It's not just babies who are born less than two pounds who end up in the NICU. It's babies that go full term, but they need help, they need surgery, and this is where they come to recover.

This is the case for one little boy. His weight is healthy, but he is not.

"He's got mostly surgical issues and he's got quite a ways to go before he goes home," Gina said.

Because of his age and size, he needs a different type of care than the preemies. He needs to be stimulated.

"He's big and alert and wants to be up and play and play," Gina said.

That's where things like swings, CD players, TVs and DVDs come into play.

"Most of the ones we have have been donated, and we abuse them, because they get used so much," Gina said.

But those simple things can make all the difference in the world to little patients like him. He's been in NICU for a long time.

"He's four months going on five months old, and he's getting ready to go home with his parents for the first time," Gina said.

That doesn't mean that he is leaving the hospital for good. He was born with a number of surgical issues, but he is also on dialysis. He'll need a kidney transplant in the next two or three years.

Little Eliana, however, should have no lasting effects from her early birth, which is wonderful news for mother Rashina: "I had a lady in the elevator tell me, I said, 'I'm going to see my baby in the NICU,' and she says, 'Oh, I'm sorry.' I said, 'No, it's fine.' I said, 'Thank God that's she's alive and that she's doing so well.'"

Rashina is doing well too, and it has a lot to do with what is called a kangaroo chair. It looks like a normal recliner, but it's designed to let mothers or fathers have skin to skin contact with a preemie. It's almost a cocoon-like environment for the baby.

"it has caused our baby and I to have more intimate moments," Rashina said.

These intimate moments have helped Eliana grow and heal. We're happy to report that Eliana is now home enjoying life outside of the hospital for the first time in her life.

Like so many babies in the NICU, she started out so small, but you know she is bound for big things.


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