In the United States, about one out of every 10 infants is born premature. Any birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy is considered premature, but babies born before 32 weeks have significantly higher rates of death and disability.
Dina Jo and Ryan Bradley have had two children, both born premature. Their first child, Adelyn, born at 27 weeks, died from an infection called necrotizing enterocolitis, which is common in premature infants.
When the couple became pregnant again, they decided that they would not return to the hospital where they delivered Adelyn, but instead would deliver at Jersey City Medical Center. They anticipated that their second baby would also be premature, and the NICU at Jersey City Medical Center was a big factor in their decision.
This article is sponsored by The Maternity Unit of Jersey City Medical Center.
Dina gave birth to her son Miles on June 17, 2016, at 30 weeks. Weighing only 2lb and 4oz, Miles went straight to the NICU, where he would remain for almost two months.
For parents, a premature birth is taxing not just because of the anxiety about health complications. There is also the emotional toll of being separated from their child.
“You don’t bring your baby home,” Dina said.
Dina added, “You don’t have that ideal birth. You don’t get that picture-perfect thing. And you feel helpless. Your baby is hooked up to all these wires and alarms, and they’re tiny.”
Jersey City Medical Center Makes a Difference
But one of the big differences between Jersey City Medical Center and the hospital where Adelyn was born was that Dina and Ryan got a lot more interaction with their baby. In a situation where it’s easy to feel helpless, the NICU nurses made them feel empowered. They facilitated lots of skin-to-skin contact between baby and parents. Dina and Ryan were able to help feed Miles and change his diapers.
“From the day that the baby gets admitted to the NICU, that starts the preparation of bringing the baby home,” Dina said.
She and her husband received a thorough education on how to care for their son. The staff emphasized the health benefits of breastmilk and showed Dina how to pump and give Miles a bottle (because preemies are often unable to nurse from the breast). Jersey City Medical Center is the only hospital in Hudson County to offer a unique human milk fortifier, which was used by the family and is proven to increase calorie consumption and promote brain growth in neonates. The couple also attended a breastfeeding support group specifically for parents of preemies.
Another feature of the NICU at JCMC that made a big difference for Dina and Ryan was the communal experience. The babies were all kept in one big room, whereas they were in separate rooms at the other hospital. So while each infant had a primary care NICU nurse, all the nurses were involved in caring for each baby.
Putting Family First
“As a parent, as a mom, you really trust them,” Dina said. “I can trust all these nurses, because they’re constantly around, they constantly want to be involved in the care.”
The neonatologists were also highly accessible. Every time Dina or Ryan had a question the nurses couldn’t answer, they would call the doctor, and he would always come right away.
By the time Miles was ready to come home, Dina and Ryan were ready, too. The NICU staff had taught the parents everything they needed to know—how to feed him, how to bathe him, how to watch for signs that he wasn’t getting enough oxygen, and how to perform CPR. But they would never need to use that last skill. From the time he came home, Miles had no problems. He’s now two years old and doing everything a healthy toddler does.
“We’re incredibly grateful to Jersey City Medical Center,” Dina said. “We are the Bradley family now because of them.”
- Hero (Top) Feature Image (& Additional Images): © RWJBarnabas