Moments before the birth of their twins in a hospital on the east side of Portland, Grace Howard and Dalton Bagley were told the babies were going to be transported to another hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The NICU there was full, and they would be moved to OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Hillsboro Medical Center.
Grace said it was stressful for having the “rug pulled out from under our feet” by being told they couldn’t stay because of lack of space in the NICU. Instead of being 10 minutes from home, they would be an hour drive away.
The day started when Grace woke up in the morning and her water broke. The twins were coming earlier than their due date. Within a few hours, she was admitted to the hospital where Jude and Elliot were born at 35 weeks gestation and delivered 5 minutes apart.
There was so much going on afterward to get the twins transported to Hillsboro Medical Center that Grace and Dalton didn’t get a chance to do skin-to-skin contact with them. They wouldn’t see the boys again until they were reunited in the NICU.
Jude and Elliot needed to spend time in the NICU to help them gain weight. They were put on feeding tubes and kept under warmers. Doctors also did glucose testing on them because Grace had gestational diabetes while pregnant.
Grace said, “When we first got settled, one of the doctors joked we had his and her rooms.” The NICU has all private rooms, each with a family daybed and recliner chair This allowed the parents to stay with Jude and Elliot and help with the feeding and care. Since they lived in Oregon City, this also saved them a lot of time from making the two-hour roundtrip drive to the NICU.
“We know how important and beneficial it is for parents to be able to stay with their babies. That’s why our NICU was built as a family-centered environment,” said Angela Douglas, M.D., pediatric hospitalist. “Many of our families have been able to room in with their babies throughout their admission, even ones that are months long.”
Since opening a year ago, the NICU has cared for 86 babies with 49 born at Hillsboro Medical Center and 37 transported from other hospitals. Everyone on the NICU team from the nurses, CNAs, lactation consultants, housekeeping staff, dietary services, and social workers are instrumental in supporting families to be able to stay in the hospital and be central in the care of their babies.
“This is my first set of biological babies and had no idea about feeding, changing diapers or swaddling,” Dalton said. “The nurses and staff have been extremely helpful showing me different parenting skills to care for our sons.”
Grace thought it was fantastic how the staff made them comfortable during their stay in the NICU. She was most thankful that they were able do tandem skin-to-skin contact with Jude and Elliot within the first couple of days. “This was great because we were all together again and could start bonding.”
Writer & photographer: Jeff Schilling