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NICU Live Cameras Let Parents 'Peek-A-Boo' At Babies

Presbyterian NICU 1
Video, taken with a camera over the crib in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, is streamed online. (credit: CBSDFW.COM)

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Bonding with premature babies is getting a little easier at one North Texas hospital. Cameras with microphones have been installed above 15 incubators in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

"I just love being able to wake up at three o'clock in the morning and see my baby boy," Royce City mom Sunny Jones said. "I love being able to pull him up and just confirm that he's okay."

Jones' son, Duncan, was born on December 17. Sunny went into labor early and Duncan was born 12 weeks premature. He weighed 2 pounds 1 ounce.

This week baby Duncan finally tipped the scale at more than 3 pounds and Sunny said it's been comforting to watch their son when she and her husband have to be at home or work.

Officials at Texas Health Resources call the camera and microphone system "Peek-a-Boo". It's taken some tweaking and hardware changes, but the system is now up and running… hovering over 15 incubators at the hospital.

"I think we were all surprised at how much of a difference it seemed to make," NICU Medical Director Dr. Gerald Nystrom said. "They [parents and family] can check on their baby's status at any time and be reassured and then get the rest that they need."

The hospital allows parents to designate up to 25 people who can have access to the camera system. Passwords are issued to help prohibit anyone else from logging in.

This year Dr. Nystrom said the system has been particularly valuable during cold and flu season, because parents will stay home and watch their baby, or encourage others to stay out of the NICU if the don't feel well.

Nystrom explained that health workers always take extra precautions with babies. "We have to restrict visitation, somewhat, because of increased risk of infections in the community that we need to keep out of the NICU."

Hospital officials told one story of a couple who called up the video camera at home, put two laptops on their dining table, and "had dinner with their twins."

Though her son is making progress, Sunny Jones has yet to be allowed to hold Duncan in her arms. "I really want to bond with him," she said. "And so the day that I get to hold him will be a joyous day."

The real-time streaming video cameras were installed thanks to a gift from a Dallas couple whose son spent one week in the Texas Health Presbyterian NICU. The donation, by Amy and Dan Hood, also included money for parent sleeping rooms that have hotel-like amenities.

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