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Nov 16, 2018

Ensuring that Premature Babies Develop into Normal Children

Teenage girls are having babies at an early age; some as young as thirteen years have given birth. On the occasion of World Prematurity Day, there is focus on the risks of babies born before their full term who sometimes face a lifetime of health challenges.  The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Karl Heusner Memorial is sharing information on the care they provide to preemies to ensure that they develop and enjoy a normal childhood. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, since its inception two years ago, has been saving the lives of a number of premature babies. For 2018 alone so far, one hundred and ninety-two babies have had to receive treatment at the unit; of that amount, fifty-two percent were premature and of that fifty-two percent, nine percent could not have been saved due to varying complications. In those unfortunate cases, the preemies were born at twenty-five weeks and under.


Neroli Williams

Neroli Williams, Unit Manager, NICU

“As long as the babies are over twenty-eight weeks, we consider them viable or able to live. But the ones that are extremely premature born like twenty-five, twenty-four weeks, it is impossible anywhere. So overall I think we are doing good. We have this new unit. We have the equipment we need. We have the pumps; we have the ventilators for when the babies cannot breathe on their own. We have babies surviving like three to five months before they go home and that’s one of the reasons we have patients coming back today.  We call them our graduates because they graduated from here.”


…and so, for the mothers, returning to the NICU with their babies was nostalgic. They recounted the experience; in some cases, months of not knowing the fate of their children to now accepting that their babies will develop as normal. Six-month-old Jalen Castro is a healthy baby boy, after spending over a month in the unit. At twenty-nine weeks, he was just over two pounds when Antoinette Forman gave birth to him.


Antoinette Forman

Antoinette Forman, Mother of Jalen Castro

“When I first came in here and I saw my baby for the first time, he was tiny, tiny…only two pounds five ounces. You couldn’t believe that he would have made it to be this big and healthy. So I am grateful and happy that my baby is here with me alive and health and with no complications. They had him on the machine for almost a month. He has the tube in his nose, through his throat; it was very heartbreaking to see something like that.”


All across the unit were posters with pictures of the NICU graduates as well as statements that the health practitioners believe the babies would say while fighting for their lives. Five-month-old Zion Smith has a hole in his heart, but after spending several months in intensive care, will grow to be a healthy boy.


Kajrah Acosta

Kajrah Acosta, Mother of Zion Smith

“It was devastating because I didn’t know if my baby would have made it or not, but I only hoped for the best. And when they told me that your baby is going home and he’s doing good, I was just smiling. It was the most magical moment for me because I knew that if my baby could do it, so could other babies.”


On the occasion of World Prematurity Day, which is celebrated annually on November seventeenth, two of the ten babies currently at the unit were released and sent home with their mothers.

But according to Paediatrician, Doctor Ramon Varela, they are also using the celebration to bring awareness on the alarming number of preterm babies. So what is contributing to the rising cases of premature births?   Top on the list is teenage pregnancy in girls between the ages of thirteen and sixteen.


Ramon Varela

Dr. Ramon Varela, Paediatrician

“We have many pregnant women between thirteen to sixteen years so those are at more risk so most of them have several efficiencies during the pregnancy. They are not treated during the pregnancy because most of time they are in and out. And also the control of blood pressure, or the control of the blood sugar; those are contributing factors that lead to premature babies.”


Neroli Williams

“For example hypertension and diabetes, which is plaguing our society right now, you need to take your treatment, do your follow-up visits. Especially if you are pregnant, you can’t just take your medication when the pressure is high or when you feel dizzy or week. No smoking because the drinking of alcohol and too much; the activities of daily living, healthy diet.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

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