There’s just something so incomprehensible, yet so warm and sincere, about the effect a newborn baby has on all who behold him or her.
A newborn brings about an instinctive desire to protect and care for at all costs; as a parent, one will do everything humanly possible to insure not a hair on that little one’s head is harmed.
However, as a parent, one must sometimes face the reality that human power has limits.
When a baby makes his or her arrival alarmingly earlier than parents and doctors anticipate, for example, those limits are realized.
Those limits are why Delta Regional Medical Center, along with several other hospitals and organizations across the U.S., is acknowledging and recognizing National Prematurity Awareness Month.
National Prematurity Awareness Month is an opportunity to reflect on the nearly 400,000 babies born preterm (before completing the normal 37 to 40 weeks of pregnancy) each year in the U.S. and what can be done to prevent it.
Delta Regional Medical Center is raising awareness by lighting the outdoor lights of the hospital’s main campus purple.
“At Delta Regional Medical Center, we strive to provide the most compassionate and professional care for all our patients and our neonatal team are some of the most qualified healthcare providers in the region,” said Scott Christensen, Delta Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer.
“Displaying purple lights signifies our support to all the people that have been impacted by a premature birth,” Christensen added.
Wanda Barfield, M.D., M.P.H., and Director for the Division of Reproductive Health for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said that they don’t understand all the reasons some babies are born too soon.
“Even women who appear to do everything “right,” can deliver too early,” she said. “But we do know that some factors increase the risk of preterm birth: Young or advanced age of the mother, cigarette or substance abuse, stress, depression, and carrying more than one baby.”
Angela Bryant, R.N., is the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Director for DRMC and knows firsthand the burden that both baby and parent bear when it comes to premature birth.
“I’ve heard a lot of parents say it feels like their life has just stopped,” a compassionate Bryant said. “At the moment that baby’s born early because their normal routine of how they used to go to work, take their kids and drop them off at daycare or school and all the normal things they used to do, they can’t anymore because all their focus is on a sick baby.”
Bryant has worked in DRMC’s NICU for eight years now and prior to that, she worked in other NICU’s including the University of Mississippi Medical Center totaling eight years.
When asked from her perspective, what kind of support do parents of premature babies often need, she said more than anything, they need someone to talk to for emotional support.
Bryant said a lot of times with moms, their babies are in the NICU for weeks, months, and even up to a year for some of the really tiny babies.
“That’s a long time, day in and day out, walking into a hospital to see their baby and not being able to walk out with them,” she added. “It’s such an emotional roller coaster ride for those parents because one day their baby may be doing wonderful and great and the next day they kind of take a step back.”
Having family or friends, or even better, somebody they know in the community who’s had a premature baby as well and can offer advice and support based on their experiences is helpful.
Kim Dowdy, Community Development Manager for DRMC, pointed how often times, that child in NICU isn’t the only child that parents’ have.
Parents are tasked with caring for a sick baby in NICU and being there for the others.
“They really feel torn because kids at home need attention and have things going on in their lives and then the parents feel they need to be up here for their really sick baby,” Bryant said of how trying the experience is for families.
Bryant recalled how she came to realize that the NICU was her calling, she wasn’t very open to the idea of working with infants at the beginning of her nursing career.
“When I went through nursing school, I was actually terrified of those little tiny babies,” she said. “I just thought ‘Oh my gosh, they’re so tiny, I’m gonna hurt em.’”
After having a baby of her own, Bryant said babies weren’t so scary anymore.
She remembered part of her job involved cross training to the NICU. “The first day I spent cross training to the NICU, I fell in love with it and I knew that was where I was meant to be and that’s where I’ve been ever since,” she said happily.
Seeing the babies from the NICU grown up is a joy for Bryant and other nurses as well.
“A lot of times, if they’re really hard to stick, they’ll call us and ask us to come start an IV, and we’ll walk in the door and be like ‘Ohhh!’” excited to see how much a baby has grown.
Bryant also talked about how important and helpful it is that they as nurses work as a team in caring for the NICU patients.
“We give our employees a lot of support so that when they first come to work in the NICU, they’re not out there by themselves,” she said. “These nurses really love these kids like their own.”
According to Bryant, DRMC in 2018 had 52 babies to be born prematurely.
The March of Dimes Organization has compiled research and issued prematurity grades for the state of Mississippi and the U.S.
The U.S. was issued a prematurity grade of C, with a preterm birth rate of 10%.
For the state of Mississippi, a prematurity grade of F was issued as the state has a preterm birthrate of 14.2%.
In Mississippi, the preterm birth rate among black women is 44% higher than the rate among all other women, according to research provided by the March of Dimes.
DRMC, March of Dimes and several other entities are making efforts to combat the high prematurity birth rate and improve mortality rates across the country.
If you visit Delta Regional Medical Center during the month of November, anyone passing the hospital will get to view the purple lights.
For more information, contact Kim Dowdy at 662-725-2830.