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Tele-NICU: The modern medical miracle local hospitals are using to save lives

Posted at 9:39 PM, Jan 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-19 22:39:53-05

GREEN BAY — Heather Turner recalls the terrifying experience she had while giving birth to her son, Arthur.

"Everything seemed to spiral pretty quickly," Turner said.

She says she knew something was wrong five hours after her water broke. She had an infection and had to have an emergency cesarean section.

When Arthur arrived, his heartbeat was faster than 200 beats per minute. He was born with Supraventricular Tachycardia, a heart condition that can be life threatening in babies and can require immediate attention.

Living in rural Michigan means Heather's hospital, OSF St. Francis Hospital in Escanaba, doesn't have all the same resources as larger hospitals, including a neonatal intensive care unit.

Despite this, Heather and Arthur were still able to get the care they needed, just as quickly.

Her doctors communicated virtually with doctors at HSHS St. Vincent Children's Hospital in Green Bay, who were able to walk them through a care plan to ensure Heather and Arthur got the help they needed.

This is known as Tele-NICU, and it's a newer technology that HSHS St. Vincent Children's Hospital is using to provide speciality care during delivery to hospitals they're hundreds of miles away from.

"When they call us, we can actually see the child through this camera here and see what the baby is doing," Dr. Kevin Stutey, a neonatologist at HSHS St. Vincent Children's Hospital, said. "We still work with the doctors and nurses at the hospital there, and they will be able to touch the baby and move the camera around, so I can see if I need to zoom in on the baby or do anything else."

Dr. Stutey said being able to determine whether a baby can remain at the hospital they're born in or if they need to be transported to elsewhere for additional care is a huge benefit of the technology.

"We can look at a baby and come up with a plan together to decide what's best for the baby and family at that point in time," Stutey said. "The worst thing we'd want to do is take a baby that might just need a little more time, and bring them to our facility, away from their mom and dad."

Lacey Crabb, OSF St. Francis Hospital Chief Nursing Officer, said OSF delivers about 325 babies a year, and they're now using the Tele-NICU to assist one to two times every week.

"Initially, we weren't sure how frequently we would use it, and I think some people were a little bit skeptical about it, but after the very first consultation, everybody was blown away," Crabb said. "It was amazing."

As for Heather, she said she can't express how grateful she is for the doctors and technology, and Arthur's as happy and healthy as can be.

"We're just kind of taking it day by day," Heather said. "Spoiling him more than we probably should."