When Bryce and Kelsey Mitteis transferred their twins into Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health’s new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in September it didn’t take long before they noticed a difference.
After several days in the hospital’s previous NICU, the premature twins were now in a private room with their parents and away from the hustle and bustle of activity of other babies receiving care, which can add stress to premature babies as they recover.
Shortly after the move, NICU Nurse Manager Angela Riley said Kelsey noticed it had been hours since she had heard an alarm.
“We feel like our kids are doing so much better because of the privacy,” Kelsey said. “I pump in there. We live in there. We sleep in there.”
The Mitteis twins, Drake and Henley, were born Sept. 23 at almost 24 weeks. The couple was transported from their home in Verdigre, Neb., to Yankton and then to Avera McKennan where the babies were born. Henley weighed just 1 pound; her brother Drake was 1 pound, 6 ounces.
“I teach, so I went from teaching my kids to having my babies,” Kelsey said. “It wasn’t what we thought this was going to be like. But then when we saw them, like any other parent, we saw they had 10 fingers, and 10 toes and were excited about that.”
The Mitteis babies were born just days before the new NICU opened. The previous space didn’t have private rooms, and Bryce and Kelsey said they felt like they were invading other families’ privacy walking in and out.
Angela said the privacy rooms are helpful to both the babies and parents. Newborns, especially premature babies, have a sensitive central nervous system, so lots of noise and movement can be stressful.
The NICU rooms are equipped with Giraffe OmniBeds, which are an incubator and radiant warmer in one that promote development along with mother-infant bonding. The beds are designed to lessen stress on the baby, allowing nurses to do a number of things such as take the baby’s weight right in the bed. It’s equipped so Bryce and Kelsey can easily help with day-to-day activities like checking temperature and changing diapers.
“Anytime you have to move or physically lift the babies it can be a risk,” Angela said. “With the Giraffe beds, we take it to the delivery room and then we don’t have to move them anymore.”
Like any parent, Kelsey and Bryce are eager to participate in the care of their twins as they grow and develop and are grateful the OmniBed makes it so easy.
“It’s our chance to bond a little bit,” Kelsey said. “ I feel like we are doing something because a lot of the time we have to sit back and watch.”
The Mitteis twins are doing well, meeting their milestones and having new experiences with their parents — like being held for the first time, first baths and first feedings. In early October Kelsey was able to hold the twins together for the first time.
The couple wrote on their CaringBridge site at the time, “The babes absolutely loved it. Seeing both their precious little bodies touching one another relaxed on mommy’s chest was an amazing thing to see. It was one of those moments that made all the bad days before just go away.”
The couple are seizing these moments as they get closer to the 40-weeks gestation due date in early January, when they hope to take the twins home. The couple has stayed with the babies since their birth with little time away, celebrating their first Halloween.
Halloween wasn’t something they had worried about, and Kelsey said they hadn’t thought about costumes until days before the holiday.
“We felt bad they wouldn’t be dressed up for their first Halloween,” Kelsey said.
Because of their successes so far, they wanted to dress Henley as Superwoman and Drake as Superman — their two little superheroes.
But with both babies less than 3 pounds, it was hard to find a costume. That, however, did not stop the nurses. They found two stuffed animals dressed in robes that they could use for the twins to provide warm but cute costumes. Henley was and elephant, and Drake got to be a bear.
“It was their first time together in the isolette,” Kelsey said. “Henley shoved her finger right in his ear. She was trying to hold his hand, and he wasn’t having it for awhile, but he came around.”