Giant steps in development achieved by tiny babies in Red Deer’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit was recognized on Thursday during World Prematurity Day.
“These little guys are great survivors,” said Sandra Walker-Kendall, NICU and pediatrics unit manager at a celebration for past and present families at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s NICU.
“It’s a team approach. There’s pediatricians, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, dietitians, that all work together to support these babies from the time of birth to the point they are going home.”
Red Deer’s NICU has 17 beds available for premature babies. In 2015, the unit had 478 admissions. Up to Oct. 31 this year, there were 260.
Mother Lisa Smikles, 32, of Ponoka, said her son Keaton, who turned 36-weeks old on Thursday, was making great progress in the NICU where there was lots of support and resources and a wonderful staff.
“He’s doing really, really well. What they can do for them now is amazing,” Lisa said.
“There’s hope for them. Just because they’re born early doesn’t mean they’re not strong and they’re not going to do well and not going to develop properly.”
Keaton’s father Andrew Smikles, who was in recliner holding his tiny infant, agreed they had everything they need in the NICU.
The couple had another premature baby in 2015 who died and Andrew said if there’s a chance that something is wrong with a pregnancy and the baby is viable, having a premature birth is the safest option.
“In my opinion, if there are any signs of distress or anything, you’re better off in here with all the technology and all the staff. At least you can know what’s going on with them as opposed to just making assumptions,” said Andrew, 27.
Another NICU mother Jennifer Jerome, 35, said her daughter Naomi, who was born at 29 weeks weighing 850 grams (one pound and 14 ounces), was making fantastic progress.
“There’s been a few bad days, but mostly good days. She’s gaining weight like a champ. She’s my chubby little baby now, almost two and a half times her size,” Jerome said.
City Coun. Lynne Mulder, who declared Nov. 17 World Prematurity Day in Red Deer, said it’s startling that one in 12 babies born in Canada are premature and Alberta has the highest rate of premature births among in the country.
“Our overarching goal at the city is to build a healthy community and that every citizen has access to a high quality life and it’s because of places like this,” Mulder said.