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April 17th, 2020

COVID-19 keeps new mom apart from first baby, but technology brings them together

Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana • April 17, 2020

By Joseph S. Pete

Lake Station resident Ashley Poole gave birth to her first child in late February, but hasn’t seen her son in weeks because of the COVID-19 public health crisis and restrictions hospitals have placed on visitors.

Angelo was born prematurely, after 25 weeks and four days, at Methodist Hospital. He only weighed 1.5 pounds, so he was placed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

At first, his parents and grandparents were allowed to visit him in the NICU. But then the hospital started putting restrictions in place because of the coronavirus. Only parents were allowed to visit, then only moms, and finally no one at all.

That’s been stressful for Poole, who hasn’t seen her child in person for three weeks.

“It’s been really crazy emotionally,” she said. “I’ve been a wreck. It hits you hard when you can’t spend time with your first baby.”

But Methodist Hospitals got a donation of iPads from Griffith High School, so nurses in the NICU can let parents see their infants through a video app.

“We are so grateful to have these iPads,” said Christine Murphy, director of Methodist Hospitals Women and Children Services. “Connecting new mothers and fathers with their infants reassures them that their babies are in a safe environment and progressing well. It really helps them to feel more connected and more engaged in their babies’ care.”

Methodist Acting CEO Matt Doyle said it helped to relieve the anxiety of new parents separated from their kids because of the pandemic that’s infected more than 2 million people worldwide and flooded local hospitals.

“We continue to be overwhelmed by the generosity of our community,” he said. “From donations of food, to gifts of masks and other Personal Protective Equipment to intubation boxes and now these iPads, we are inspired by the support shown for our hospitals and for our courageous and dedicated staff.”

Poole won’t be able to take her boy home until he reaches 5 pounds and learns how to drink from a bottle. She’s not sure exactly how much longer he’ll have to stay in the NICU.

“He was born incredibly small,” she said. “He’s had to overcome some challenges. But I got to see how big he’s gotten and hear his cry.”

She just got to see her son for about 10 minutes via Zoom conference, and his father will be able to Thursday night as well after he gets off work.

“I took every opportunity to tell him how much me and his daddy love him and how we want him to come home soon,” she said. “If we can’t be with him physically right now, this is the next best thing.”

Poole was overwhelmed with emotion when she heard her son cry out on Zoom.

“My emotions have been all over the place,” she said. “It was already a difficult pregnancy and you add in this crazy pandemic in the world. Emotionally, it takes a toll on you. But when I saw him, I just thought how much I love this child and how big he has gotten.”

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