Latoya was willing to sacrifice to have her baby, even stopping the chemotherapy that battled the cancer within her. When Syncere was born early weighing 5 pounds, 4 ounces, he needed to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for several weeks. Latoya tried to be there every day, but with three other children to raise and the resumption of her breast cancer treatments, she needed a little help.
A livestream service gave her the peace of mind she needs.
Funded by generous Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation donors, including Bill Currie Ford, Yara Shoemaker and the Gilleland Family, the video is available to families with babies in the NICU. It is a pilot program for now as the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation seeks donations for additional cameras.
Latoya checked in on Syncere as she made dinner for the other children, received chemotherapy treatments or settled into bed.
“That way, I can keep an eye on him,” she says. “I know if he is sleeping, or if he’s fussing. I can watch the nurses caring for him. It’s really nice to have.”
The system requires a password to limit access to family and friends once they have enrolled, explains Mandi Dix, R.N., clinical manager in charge of the new program.
The service was recently introduced to parents like Latoya and her fiancée, Shedric, as a way to be there for their baby even when they can’t be. She loved it. “I wish it existed when my daughter was born. She was in the NICU for four weeks too. It just puts your mind at ease knowing your baby is OK even when you can’t be in the room.”
Latoya, with her own medical appointments and three other kids to care for, still managed to get to the hospital every day at least for a while. “The nurses are so wonderful. They know about my cancer, and they tell me to take a day off. They remind me I have to care for myself too, but I just want to check in on him.”
Because the hospital’s NICU is rated at the top Level IV by the American Academy of Pediatrics, families often travel from throughout Florida or from other states and countries for care. The hospital’s neonatology program is top ranked in Florida by U.S. News & World Report, 2018-2019 and often treats premature babies who require weeks or months of care in the NICU.
Family members often need to come and go so they can care for other children, return to jobs, deal with their own medical issues and more. The service gives them the relief and comfort of being able to actually see their child from any location at any moment. Of course, that is coupled with a caring staff willing to answer any questions new parents might have.
Syncere went home after three weeks in the NICU and Latoya, who bashfully admits she kissed her cellphone more than once when he was on camera, was grateful to retire the virtual kisses for the real thing at home.
This story first appeared in For the Kids magazine, a publication of the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation. To learn more about how to support the program and the Maternal, Fetal & Neonatal Institute, contact senior gift officer Taylor Traviesa at 727-767-4105.