RALEIGH — Twelve of the tiniest patients at WakeMed moved into their own private rooms Thursday as the hospitals renovated neonatal intensive care unit opened.
The new NICU space adds 12,000 square feet and 12 beds, for a total of 21,000 square feet and 48 beds. Most notably, the $8 million project adds 27 private rooms, something almost unheard of in such a unit.
You dont see that very often at all, said Kristin Kelly Gruman, a WakeMed spokeswoman. What were doing that no one else is doing is having the private rooms.
The 12 babies who moved into the private rooms had been in an area of the NICU called glass rooms. There, incubators alternated with a recliner, a rolling chair and medical equipment in what doctors called a pinwheel setup. Though it was ideal for nurses monitoring the vital signs of babies too young to eat and breathe on their own, parents had no place to spend the night.
For first-time parents Misty and Ryan Hilliard, that meant hours and days in a recliner. They have been spending time in the hospital since Dec. 13, when their daughter, Kyrsten Skye Hilliard, was born at 25 weeks gestation.
Kyrsten weighed 2 pounds. Now she weighs about 4. Brown haired with blueish-green eyes, Kyrsten can coo and just started eating from a bottle, though it makes her very tired, Ryan Hilliard said.
The parents are tired, too.
Every parent will probably tell you its a roller-coaster. There are good days and bad days, but everyone has been really nice, Ryan Hilliard said.
Shes looking forward to having her own room, he said with a smile. The room will allow Kyrsten to have more quiet time, and it will allow us to have more breastfeeding without getting interrupted.
The new rooms have a recliner, a sofa that extends for sleeping, a refrigerator for breast milk, artwork on the walls and plenty of space to freely move.
In the center
James Perciaccante, director of neonatology at WakeMed, said the old equipment was state of the art 20 years ago. Newer technology in recent years includes things such as monitors that call nurses phones directly.
If theres a problem, her phone will ring, he said. It will tell her exactly what is going on.
In addition, Perciaccante said, the new arrangement puts parents in the center. Nurses train parents to be involved in their babys care.
The mom can put the baby to her skin, and that will regulate the babys temperature, he said.
Parents will have more personal space, be able to close the door and even spend the night in the remaining weeks before their babies are strong enough to go home. And they can socialize with other parents in the lounge areas at the end of the hallways.
One of the good things about the old setup is you get to know your neighbor. We dont want to lose that, Perciaccante said. For a three- or four-month stay, relationships are really important.
WakeMeds Dr. James Helm said the hospital prides itself on individualized care for all patients, including preemies. Doctors watch each babys reaction to stimuli and change care accordingly.
If youre sensitive to those individual differences, you can be more supportive, he said. We hope the new rooms add to our ability to enhance the experience of families and babies. More privacy, more individually controlled environments. Its much more all about that baby.
Gilman: 919-553-7234, ext. 104