The Wells family | Photo by Darla Carter

Lori Frey Wells and her husband, Todd, never expected their newborn son to arrive early, but little Sawyer Davis Wells had other ideas.

His mother’s water broke prematurely last month, leading to a trip to University of Louisville Hospital, where Sawyer was born at 34 weeks and three days.

Being premature meant that Sawyer would have to be admitted to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), a situation that can give any parent separation anxiety.

“We’ve been doing the whole apart thing for five days and that’s been really rough,” the baby’s mom said.

Luckily, the hospital has a new way for parents to stay connected to their NICU babies, even if mom is discharged before the newborn or dad has to go back to work.

The system, Nicview, provides live video of the baby in the NICU thanks to a bedside camera and a website that parents can access on their cellphones or computers.

“In the car on the way home, I’m pulling it up like, ‘OK, OK, he’s still good,’ ” Sawyer’s mom said. “And when I’m on my way back to nurse him, I’m like, ‘Oh, he’s stirring. We need to hurry up. Let’s go!’ ”

The system, which arrived at UofL Hospital earlier this year, was first used in Orange County, California in 2011, said Blake Rutherford, the product’s founder, who is based in Louisville. It’s now in about 185 U.S. facilities nationwide and about a dozen abroad.

“Parents are given a secure username and password to their own portal, which allows them to log on and see their hospitalized infant at the discretion of the facility,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford is a Nicview sales manager for Natus Medical, which purchased his company, Healthcare Observation Systems, about three years ago. He co-founded the original company with Dominic Foster and Chris Morrow.

“We get very positive feedback from staff members all over the country,” Rutherford said. “There’s always that situation where dad works in an oil field, dad’s an over-the-road trucker, maybe he’s a solider deployed overseas.”

Nicview is “a go-to (product) for making sure everyone is involved” with the baby, he said.

A Nicview camera on the right is trained on newborn Sawyer Wells while he relaxes in his crib at UofL Hospital. His mom and dad used the system to keep an eye on him from home. | Photo by Darla Carter

During Sawyer’s hospitalization, his mother spent as much time with her son as she could during the day, using the website mainly after she went home at night.

Lori Frey Wells and her newborn son, Sawyer. | Photo by Darla Carter

“I used the cameras every moment I was not here,” said Lori Frey Wells, 35, of Louisville. “They’re amazing, and if it weren’t for those cameras, I would have been doing a lot more crying and feeling a lot more separated from him.”

Sawyer’s dad also used the technology. “That peace of mind of being able to see him when we couldn’t physically be with him was a relief,” Todd Wells said.

Nurses have the discretion to turn the camera off if they’re in the middle of doing something with the baby, whether it be an assessment, procedure or feeding, said Pauline Hayes, clinical manager of the NICU, which is part of the Center for Women and Infants.

UofL Hospital was attracted to Nicview because “we have a lot of moms who come from other places or who, for whatever reason, can’t visit as much as they’d like, so being able to see their baby from home would be a comfort to them,” Hayes said.

Whether a mom has been transferred to the hospital from Paducah or simply has limited transportation, the technology can be beneficial to the parents as well as other relatives.

“They can share it (the password) with whoever they want, so that anybody can get on and see the baby,” Hayes said.

Sawyer’s relatives “were able to watch him and they were able to kind of connect with him too and that’s been really nice,” his mom said before the baby was discharged.

It’s typical for a NICU baby to be in the hospital for four to six weeks – some even longer, Hayes said.

“For mothers that worry about ‘What’s happening to my baby when I’m not there?’ it’s a great way to see … we take good care of their baby,” she said.

Darla Carter is a hometown girl who recently joined the staff of Insider Louisville to mostly cover health. She previously served as a longtime health and fitness writer for The Courier-Journal, where she also worked for the Metro, Neighborhoods and Features departments. Prior to that, the award-winning journalist wrote for newspapers elsewhere in Kentucky and Tennessee, covering a range of topics, from education to courts. She's a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she studied journalism and philosophy, and is the proud mom of two young children.


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