Jeffrey Vergales, a pediatric cardiologist, along with his wife, Brooke Vergales, a NICU pediatrician have created an iPad program that will make life for NICU parents easier, with the goal of shortening time spent in the hospital.
The birth of babies is something parents anticipate for nine long months and we itch to escape the walls of the hospital and get our bundles of joy home. However, for many families, the anticipation can quickly turn to fear and uncertainty when babies have to spend time in the NICU.
Most parents don’t expect to end up in the NICU. However, every year 10-15 percent of babies, that’s about half a million, end up in the NICU. One in eight babies are born preterm, which is the number one reason babies are admitted to the NICU. After seeing the out dated way of keeping track of babies weight and food intake, this husband and wife team recognized the problem and were determined to find an answer.
Traditionally, babies at the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit would spend long periods of time until they were deemed well enough to go home. “We would send the parents home with these binders and ask them to write things down and call us days and weeks later with some of the data. These were high-risk children, and we have them in the hospital hooked up to all of these monitors and then we send them home with a pen and paper,” Jeffrey told PEOPLE. “We would go back 100 years in technology.”
The dated system also meant that parents had to wait to take their babies home because they would be out of touch with doctors. For many families, they had to travel back and forth to see their babies, spending hours in a vehicle instead of precious time holding and rocking their new son(s) or daughter(s).
“I was frustrated because kids would be close to going home, and all they needed from us was feeding them, writing down how much they ate and weighing them. I was like, parents can do this at home.” Brooke says.
Working together with with Locus Health, they came up with a much more efficient and convenient solution. The Apple iPad app was created to allow parents to do the same things done at the hospital: from monitoring feeding to recording weight. And, the best part? Enabling parents to do so from the comfort of home. Customized to each patient, the app also immediately updates medical staff, keeping parents and doctors connected.
The results speak for themselves. The app is now in 15 other major children’s hospitals across the country. The hope is to expand the app further to help with transplant kids as well as people with chronic health problems.
Not all superheroes wear capes! For NICU babies and their parents, they wear scrubs.
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