Baby Adriel’s little cry is music to his parents Alex and Brenda Jacinto’s ears. Their baby boy was born eight weeks early.
“I just started getting contractions, I went into preterm labor,” said Brenda.
It was only February, and Adriel wasn’t planned to arrive until April. Brenda was rushed to Clovis Community Medical Center, where her doctor was waiting.
“The first thing that came to mind was fear. It was a scary thing,” Brenda said.
But when she got to the hospital and learned the entire neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) was on standby, she felt she was in good hands.
Having a Preemie Baby
Adriel was born at four pounds, ten ounces, and spent six weeks in the NICU. Though Brenda made it through delivery safely, there were still some obstacles Adriel would have to overcome to go home.
The NICU team – which included respiratory specialists, physical therapists, and speech pathologists – were all on hand to help Adriel and his parents get through this experience together.
“Not being able to take your baby, hold your baby at night, you know? Everybody comes, has their baby, takes their baby home, and you have to say goodbye, good night to your baby at the hospital,” Alex said through tears.
No parent wants their newborn baby to be in the NICU, but families can rest assured, when their baby is in the NICU at Community Medical Centers, their child will be surrounded by a whole team of doctors, nurses, and specialists who are ready to help them flourish and grow.
“They made you feel like you’re secure, like your baby’s in good hands,” Alex said.
Breathing Problems in Preemies
Janice Perry is the respiratory care supervisor in the NICU at Clovis Community. She helps ensure babies have a clear breathing airway.
“[Adriel] had some breathing difficulties, so he actually required what we call intubation, putting a tube into his lungs and giving him surfactant,” Perry said. Sometimes premature babies can have secretions in their lungs or airways that block their breathing. They use suction to help clear those secretions.
“So then, he was just having to learn how to eat, eat and stay warm and all the normal baby things,” Perry said.
Eating Problems in Preemies
Speech Language Pathologist Ana Atkinson said learning how to eat can also be a challenge for many babies in the NICU.
“They have a little trouble with suck-swallow-breathe coordination. So sometimes they suck, suck, suck and they forget that they have to actually swallow or breathe, and you have a lot of coughing and choking,” Atkinson said.
The NICU team at Clovis Community doesn’t just train the babies, they also help parents, particularly mothers, through the feeding process.
“We talk to them about stress cues, feeding readiness cues, when your baby is showing signs that they’re ready to eat,” Atkinson said.
Brenda commented, “It was more of an educational experience for us as well, everybody that came in and helped our baby, we learned a lot from them.”
Moving Problems in Preemies
The Jacinto’s say they also learned how physical therapy plays a huge role in the development and growth of a premature baby.
“When the babies are born, especially our premature babies, they have very low tone. They have a decreased tolerance to handling, the environment is very stressful for them,” Deanne Cassou Garcia, neonatal physical therapist said.
When babies are in the NICU, Garcia encourages parents to do skin to skin contact and attend to their baby’s needs.
“So, we want to support them into kind of that fetal position, teach them how to explore with their hands, to self soothe their face,” Garcia said.
Bringing a Preemie Home
Adriel graduated out of the NICU around 37 weeks, thanks to the whole NICU department. And mom and dad couldn’t be happier.
“It was so exciting. I just remember being happy and all those sad days that we went through, I think it just made it so much better,” Brenda said.
“I don’t think there’s words that could explain how grateful we are,” Alex said.