Eliza Grace was born on March 15, 2006, at 26 weeks, 4 days, weighing 1 pound 4 ounces and measuring just 11.5 inches long. She is the light of my soul and this is the story of our life in the big city.

Monday, July 19, 2010

"NICU" on Discovery Health

Discovery Health Channel has embarked on yet another medical drama, this time with a view into the NICU

I have to admit I was pretty underwhelmed by it.

Let me say at the outset, that I have always had an issue with the term "miracle" baby, a term which was repeated throughout the show. My discomfort with the term "miracle baby" has nothing to do with any religious belief. To me terming one child a "miracle" because they struggled at birth seems to diminish the value of the life of the child who had a boring old 40 week gestation and uneventful birth. Personally, I think any baby who survives from an from embryo through 40 weeks of gestation and makes it through a vaginal birth is a miracle. It is amazing to me that most of us make it out that way in one healthy piece. But then there are the babies who make it to barely more than half of the requisite 40 weeks. I think of these babies, like Eliza, as "survivors." "Survivor" gives Eliza at least some of the well deserved credit for overcoming monumental hurdles and does not just credit some higher power for her health and progress.

Micro preemies, generally babies under 2 pounds, are a small percentage of the preemies born each year. Some estimates indicate that less that 1% of all preemies are micro preemies, which translates to a very small number of babies relative to even the preemie population. Given that small number, I recognize that the issues that we and our children face are not something that is going to be terribly relevant to a television producer who is trying to attract an audience, so I suspect our perspective will not matter much to the powers that be at Discovery Health. To a parent who spent months, not a few days, in the NICU, the Discovery Health show might have been better titled "NICU-lite."

To parents of micro preemies, I think the Discovery Health show perpetuated the idea that our babies just needed a few weeks at most until they fattened up and could go home. For sure, near term preemies often face far more problems than the public is aware. There is no doubt about this. But the show made it sound as if a 4+ pound baby was an incredibly tiny baby, when in fact that was the weight that Eliza (and probably most micro preemies) came home at after 100 days in the NICU.

This is a 4+ pound baby:



This is a 1 pound baby:



If the first show's agenda was to have an episode on near term preemies, then it should have simply stated that this was the focus of this particular episode. The problems that near term preemies face can be extremely difficult and it is incredibly important for the public to be educated to understand that each baby deserves a full 40 weeks in utero, that 36 weeks isn't "good enough." I am appalled when I hear women complain about how they can't wait to have their babies at 36 or 37 weeks. The baby needs 40 weeks for a reason.

The second episode was more of a public service announcement about the adverse effects of obesity on a pregnancy. An important topic no doubt, but not one that was particularly related to life in the NICU. The scenes in the NICU were minimal and more of a reminder of what havoc obesity and high blood sugar can cause.

I don't know what future episodes will hold and maybe Discovery Health will dare to have a show on a micro preemie and show some raw footage of the NICU life of a micro preemie. If not, you can always rent Little Man if you want to learn about the NICU life of a micro preemie. Unlike the first episode on Discovery Health, you will learn that not all mothers find the time, within a week of their baby's admission to the NICU, to have (or give a thought to) their hair, make up and nails (as did at least one featured mom).

Another good recent article on life after the NICU is this article in the Boston Herald.

I am hoping that future episodes will show a broader range of experience in the NICU and do a better job of explaining what is transpiring.

But it is television, so I am not holding my breath.

17 comments:

Anthony and Ashleys Mommy said...

I've told myself I won't watch that show. Not only would it be hard to watch, but I figured it wouldn't show how it REALLY is in there. A 4 pound "grower & feeder" is VERY different from a 20 some weeker that needs 100% support.

Kim

Laraf123 said...

yes, it sounds like NICU-lite would be a more appropriate title. Micro-preemies are certainly survivors and deserve all the credit that term conveys.

Sarah said...

I couldn't agree more. I was just waiting for the real-life NICU to come on. I realize that any stay in the NICU is scary, but the show didn't do a good job of showing the range of sick babies. Then maybe the parents of the really sick babies were too worried/busy to sign the TV release. thanks for the great post!

K said...

Ugh. I haven't read the thread yet on the ml, but your post pretty much confirms what I would have expected about any such show. I'm sure I can find less aggravating ways to spend my time! (Watching CSPAN? Talking to insurance companies?)

One Girl, Two Boobs said...

I can't even imagine how difficult it would be to have a micro-preemie. Having my two 33-weekers in the NICU was the most stressful thing I have gone through thus far in my life and I can't fathom how much more difficult it would have been if they were micro-preemies. I just can't. And make-up? Nail polish? I was happy if my eyes were minimally puffy and I brushed my teeth!

Jo said...

You know, "preemie" is such an all-encompassing word. Basically, it can mean anything from 22 to 38 weeks. Maybe if the show stressed that these were "regular" preemies, we micro-preemie parents would feel better.

Even if they put just one disclaimer sentence in the beginning of the show..."although the NICU handles sick babies from micro-preemies born before 27 weeks weighing less than 2 pounds and full-term infants with health problems, this show concerns the near-term preemies, those born between X and X that weigh at least X lbs and their journey through the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit."...

It narrows it down and no one gets offended.

Anne, Eliza Grace's mom said...

Jo: That is my point exactly.

One or two sentences at the beginning: "This episode of NICU will focus on the issues facing near term preemies only." Or "This episode focuses on the issues facing near term preemies. There are separate and unique issues facing extremely premature infants who face months, not days or weeks, in the NICU."

Judith and Jason said...

kick ass post anne!

Preemie Donna said...

I felt the same way when I watched the first epsiode of the Duggars preemie. I was so hopeing they would show how it was for a micro preemie. Cause so many people think 5 lbs go home like weight is the magic bullet they have no clue what all goes into the 100 plus day stay at the NICU. Lets hope they focus on the real NICU.

Megan said...

My heart feel sad to see this baby. I can't barely watch it and that baby really need more 100% support.

Pamela said...

I feel so sad for the mother of this babies. I know what they feel, they don't want the baby to sacrifice this kind of problem. They are too young. Its really painful to see premature babies :(

Billie said...

Ditto! I haven't actually seen the show yet, but after reading several other perspectives I will probably just skip it.

Noelle said...

I am currently in the nicu with my 1pound 11 ounce baby (but she was 32 weeks so I don't know if that is technically a micropreemie) and I am hesitant to watch the show. It us all too close to home right now and I would hate to see this difficult journey misrepresented. Thanks fir telling me about it.

Anne, Eliza Grace's mom said...

Noelle,

I firmly believe that while you are in the NICU you should avoid watching these shows or spending too much time Googling various preemie topics.

Enjoy your baby, take each day as it comes and don't even think about shows like this one.

geartrooper said...

my daughter anna was born at 29 weeks i was at work when this had happened and i was sent to the er and then i was rushed up to harrisburg hospital i was in labor for 2 weeks!! i was not due until may 14th 2010 i had her at 29 weeks on feb 26th 2010!! so yes my daughter was in the nicu for 2 and half months!! she didnt come home until may 12th 2010!! everyday was very hard i had lost 4 due to miscarriage's and little anna was my only baby!! so yes i can relate to the families. so yes if u would like to see my little anna i have a facebook look up stacy siar and that is me and you can see little anna.. she is 5 months now and i look back of how smaill she was she weighed 2pds and 11 oz when she was born... thanks guys

appetite suppressant said...

I saw babies which weight was much less and they now are healthy and happy. I wish only wellness to this little sun!

adipex online said...

Jesus!
That is so sad... That baby really need more 100% support.