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The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is one of the most vital units in any medical facility, caring for babies who have such conditions as heart problems, birth defects, breathing trouble and infections. Around 10 to 15 percent of all babies born in the United States require NICU care.

A baby’s stay in the unit can take a significant toll on parents, especially when they are away from their child — left to question how their loved one is faring without them near.

However, for parents of newborns who have a lengthy stay in the Terrebonne General Medical Center (TGMC) NICU, recently installed technology is putting their minds at ease.

In the fall, the hospital introduced NICVIEW 2 Live Video Streaming Camera Systems, a 24/7 livestream that allows parents and extended family members to view their loved ones from anywhere. The password-protected system can be accessed by a smartphone.

“TGMC Women’s Health Center knows that childbirth is an emotional event for parents and families, particularly when a newborn’s first few critical days, weeks or even months are spent in the NICU,” reads a statement from TGMC. “NICVIEW 2 is inobtrusive and can be activated and repositioned at will, ensuring NICU staff remain in control of the care process at all times.”

The system was made possible by funds raised by the TGMC Volunteer Auxiliary and an $18,500 donation from the Cooper Life Fund (CLF).

“We strive to provide the latest technology for our patients and their families and are tremendously thankful for the partnership with the Cooper Life Fund which enables us to offer the NICVIEW that will bring peace of mind to the families of our tiniest warriors here at TGMC,” says Phyllis People, President and CEO of TGMC.

The nonprofit was founded by Ashley and John Fontenot to help families of children born with serious medical conditions.

“It’s already emotional and kind of a roller coaster ride of a situation for parents, especially having your newborn baby being admitted into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit — just that alone can make it very, very difficult,” John says. “Then you add COVID on to the situation where only one parent can come in.”

John and Ashley’s son, Cooper, was born with a life-threatening heart defect, forcing him to spend many weeks in the hospital and endure an open-heart surgery when he was only nine days old.

Today, the 15-year-old is alive and well.

“When Cooper was in the NICU for his term, we were there 100 percent of the time,” John recalls. “But times are a lot different these days. Just to be able to see and look at your son or your daughter or your grandchild, it just helps so much. It adds emotional support to the family’s home.”

Going on its 15th year, the annual Super Cooper 5K is the main fundraiser for the organization. Attracting around 200 runners each year, the event has been able to raise a total of $169,000 for the TGMC NICU, with proceeds either going directly to helping its families or babies, paying for its nurses’ training or to its programs, such as NICVIEW.

“The race and the foundation are named after our son Cooper, but we put this together not for Cooper,” John says. “It’s just in his name to help others who are going through what Cooper and we went through.”

“Terrebonne General has just been amazing in this,” he continued. “Their number one concern is always: what can we do for these families and for these babies. They collaborated with us on so many different things. It is amazing to see them in action, and we’re proud and honored to be a part of it with these guys.”

A mother shared what the new camera system has meant to her. At 26-weeks pregnant, she had a placental abruption, causing her baby to be born prematurely. Around press time, her baby had been in the hospital for 11 weeks, which is before and after NICVIEW was installed.

She went on to say her other children love to watch their new baby sister on her phone, and her husband keeps it on virtually all day. She says that NICVIEW gives her family “peace of mind.”  POV