Any parent of a NICU baby will tell you that one of hardest parts of the experience is being separated from your baby. Some fragile babies can’t even be held for several weeks or months. And while parents do everything in their power to remain by their baby’s side as much as possible, it’s virtually impossible to be there all the time.
When days and weeks turn into months, many parents have to return to work or tend to their other children and responsibilities at home. But one little camera is easing the pain of these separations for NICU parents everywhere. It’s called the Angel Eye camera, and it was created by a team of doctors at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).
Holly Barnhart is the manager of business development for Angel Eye cameras, and tells Babble that the cameras were first launched commercially in 2013, but have been catching on in popularity within the last few years. Currently, they’re being used at 44 hospitals around the U.S. — with more hospitals to come.
“We were clinically founded and take the feedback from our current hospital partners and the families they support very seriously,” Barnhart says.
In a recent article for KATV News, Dr. Curtis Lowery — a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at UAMS and one of the founders of the Angel Eye camera — explained how the idea for the cameras came to be.
“The babies are often very, very sick, and they have to stay here for a long time, sometimes six months, and the parents, mothers, have to go back home,” said Dr. Lowery. “So we came up with the idea that if we could put a camera on the bed, they could watch their child from home or bedroom or work.”
It’s such a simple, yet totally brilliant idea. And what a game-changer it is for these NICU families, who want nothing more than to be as close as possible with their little ones and keep an eye on them when they can’t physically be there to do so. “If a picture’s worth a thousand words then a video is worth 100,000 words,” said Dr. Lowery.
It most certainly is. The cameras not only offer NICU families the ability to watch and listen to their babies from afar, but families can also “chat” with their babies, so that their little ones will be able to get used to their voices even when they are not there.
Other camera features include the ability to communicate with doctors, nurses, and other medical staff about your baby’s condition, the option of viewing more than one baby when applicable, and 24/7 customer service and tech support. Parents can view the camera data over their Internet browser, or via a downloadable app on their smart device.
International Biomedical, the company that distributes the cameras, explains on their website that they utilize the most up-to-date security features, with “[e]ncrypted transmissions, password security and audit trails.” The software is hosted by AWS GovCloud, Amazon’s most secure location.
But perhaps the most impressive aspect of the camera is how the inventors were able to use something as basic as a small camera to make all the difference for parents of NICU babies.
“When you have a baby that is making it minute by minute and then day by day, you know your mind is just there,” shared Rachael Swaty, a NICU mom who daughter Jane, was born at 27 weeks. Swaty told KATV News that the Angel Eye camera was a life-saver for her and her family, eliminating so much of the stress of not knowing what was happening with her baby when she was not there, and easing some of the real medical fears she had for Jane’s well being. “Sometimes I didn’t want to call, sometimes I wasn’t ready for the next medical information and I needed my husband’s hand for that,” Swaty told the outlet. “It was just a way to check on her without getting into all the fears, and test results, and the stress.”
The Swaty family also mentioned that the camera made it possible for Jane’s big sister to “meet” her. “We would wake up in the morning and we’d all get in bed with our cell phone and we would watch Jane together,” Swaty shared.
Doesn’t that just make your heart swell?
Barnhart tells Babble that her team is constantly updating the camera and its apps to keep things as cutting edge and user-friendly as possible.
“We are currently re-developing our native apps and building out our parent education portal to support the hospital with educational material delivery, discharge planning and allow the hospital to run meaningful use reports to confirm with the parents have viewed,” she explains.
When it comes down to it, it’s all about making the lives of NICU parents and their vulnerable babies that much more comfortable and connected at a time when they need it most. It’s about bringing a little light to the lives of families who are experiencing days on end of unimaginable worry and heartbreak. And it seems like the Angel Eye camera is succeeding at that times a million.