Dothan hospital tackles infant mortality rate with new NICU resource

Dothan hospital tackles infant mortality rate with new NICU resource
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - Southeast Alabama Medical Center has expanded its resources in the Neonatal Critical Care Unit. Wednesday the hospital unveiled four new Kangaroo Chairs for parents of newborns.

"No one loves their baby more than their parents do, but no one takes care of the babies like we do," said Mark Stewart, Public Relations for Southeast Alabama Medical Center.

The specialized chairs allow parents to comfortably have skin to skin bonding with their child.

"We talk about the high tech," said Sheri Smith, NICU Director, "This innovation is a low tech, but a very important thing that we're now able to offer our babies,"

The chair is similar to a recliner but is more compact to fit in the NICU and can be moved in positions that are more comfortable for a woman who just delivered. Before, the hospital made do with office chairs.

"We do the best we can to get the moms situated or the dads, but it's more comfortable especially for a mom who has had a C-section or difficult delivery," said Smith.

Smith says having the Kangaroo Chairs in the NICU will hopefully help the hospital tackle Alabama's high infant mortality rate.

According to an article posted on CNN, based on research data between 2005 and 2015, Alabama's infant mortality rate stood at 8.52 deaths per 1,000 live births. That's higher than the national average of 5.9 deaths per live births. The chairs help facilitate the bonding of skin to skin contact, which babies in critical care often need.

"It's been proven to decrease infant mortality in babies that are provided skin to skin by a rate of 41 percent," said Smith.

The contact the newborn has snuggled against their parent's body in the chair helps the premature newborn overcome some of the health challenges they face immediately after birth.

"It actually enhances their ability to grow better, saves their calories and helps them regulate their heart rate," said Smith, "All of these sound like very basic things, but to a premature infant it is phenomenal in their growth and outcome,"

Three of the four new chairs were donated through funds collected by the local community including the Eclectus Club in loving memory of Greg and Elsa Hoffman's infant son, Charlie.

The Hoffmans lost Charlie in 2013.

"It was discovered his life would not be viable after birth. At the time I delivered, he would pass," said Elsa Hoffman.

Elsa Hoffman said she wanted to provide families the resources she would have needed had Charlie survived.

"It's a beautiful way for him to be remembered and in a positive way in bringing comfort to parents is the most we can do," said Elsa Hoffman.

"Even if someone says, 'I wonder who Charlie was', it's kind of like a testament," said Greg Hoffman.

The fourth chair in the NICU was donated anonymously.

The hospital hopes to have 16 chairs total, enough for every room in the NICU.

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