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NICU nurses take part in the lives of the smallest patients

(Monica Maschak – mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Special Care Nursery Nurse Cindy Lincicum assesses the breath and heart sounds on a six-hour-old baby boy Monday at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington. Lincicum has been working with premature babies for 25 years.

BARRINGTON – Hanging above a desk inside the Special Care Nursery at Advocate Good Shepherd are pictures of children.

Some are babies, some are high school graduates and some are sitting on Santa Claus’ lap.

Parents send the pictures of children who stayed in the Special Care Nursery to say the children are doing well after being born too early.

Some come into the neonatal intensive care units, and units like it, when the mother was 28 weeks’ pregnant at the time of birth. Babies born earlier in the pregnancy need a higher-level nursery. Some babies could weigh as little as 1˝ pounds.

It’s the reminders of the children who have left and thrived that make the job of a NICU nurse rewarding.

“It’s a very rewarding job or area,” said Cindy Lincicum, a nurse at Advocate Good Shepherd. “You’re dealing with someone’s miracle, and you get to take part in their life. That relationship you build with them is forever lasting.”

As premature babies lay in warmers or in small individual isolation chambers to help regulate their temperature, monitors show readings of their heart rate, respiration and pulse ox, which monitors the oxygen level in blood.

Seeing all the monitors connected to someone so small can be intimidating for new parents.

“They’re scared; we do a lot of education with them,” Lincicum said. “We explain the equipment, multiple, multiple times. We also empower them to do as much for their babies as they can. We advocate for kangaroo care where moms and dads put baby chest to chest. They’re able to hold their baby, keep their baby warm.”

Premature babies are more prone to infection, can have respiratory problems and jaundice, and may not have enough energy to eat.

Once a week, the nurses in the department, doctors, social worker and parents, among others, meet in the nursery to discuss the progress and needs of the children, whether they might need occupational or physical therapy.

“We go over their history, where they’re at, what we are doing, what are our concerns, what’s the plan of care,” Lincicum said.

During one meeting, the staff discussed how Hampshire resident Jeannie Roy’s twins had just moved from warmers to regular cribs.

“Your kids are doing well,” Dr. Faheem Uraizee said. “They’ll be here a few more days.”

Infants admitted into the unit can’t leave until they show they can regulate their own temperature, in an open crib setting rather than in a heated isolation chambers, for at least two days and have to be gaining weight.

Lincicum most memorable patients were twins born at 28 weeks. She had to put in lines for the children that went through the arm and ran down to the heart. One of the twins needed surgery.

“I got really close with the parents,” Lincicum said. “I just remember her son having a lot of issues with spells, and they were pretty significant [breathing] spells. She was just devastated.”

The twins now are 5 years old and doing well.

Babies who are born younger than 32 weeks automatically will be referred to Advocate Lutheran General’s Developmental Care Clinic, where they do followups for two to three years to make sure the babies are meeting certain developmental milestones.

James Putnam and his fiancee, Hollie Crum, recently sat in the nursery with their week-old daughter, Ashlyn, who was born Dec. 9 at 33 weeks, weighing 4 pounds, 6 ounces.

Ashlyn puts her hand around Crum’s finger. The family bonds.

The nurses taught the Wonder Lake couple what each of the readings meant and where the numbers should be.

“It was all foreign to us,” Putnam said while sitting next to Crum. “Any question we’ve had, [the nurses] answered.”

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