New equipment keeping critically ill babies safe

Thanks to the incredible generosity of our community, The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) is home to a suite of new infant radiant warmers and hybrid incubators, keeping our most vulnerable babies safe, warm and closer to their parent’s touch.

Four-month-old Archie was one of the first patients to be supported by the new state-of-the-art devices. Born 11 weeks early, Archie required a hybrid incubator days after his premature arrival.

At 28 weeks pregnant, Archie’s mum, Danica was attending a routine obstetrician appointment with husband Shaun when on a whim her obstetrician decided to do an ultrasound.

“My obstetrician brought up the heart beat and it sounded like an adult heart beat because it was so slow. At first, she didn’t say anything and was looking at other areas, then she went back to the heart and said that it was a bit slow, and that there might be a block or something,” Danica said.

What happened next was a blur of activity. Danica was immediately sent to her local maternity hospital for a second opinion which confirmed the abnormal foetal heart rate. From there Danica was transported to the birthing suite to deliver Archie.

“I had three midwives preparing me for surgery. It all happened so fast, I wasn’t functioning.  In the end due to time constraints I was put under general anaesthetic and woke up in recovery. Hours later, they wheeled me down in my bed to meet Archie who was in intensive care.”

That night Archie was transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the RCH via ambulance, where he was diagnosed with tachycardia, a type of heart rhythm disorder in which the heart beats faster than normal while at rest.

Over the next few weeks, the Director of Neonatal Medicine at the RCH, Professor Rod Hunt, and Archie’s treatment team worked to regulate Archie’s heart rate, which fluctuated between 60 to 300 beats per minute.

“Archie was given a number of different drugs and his condition was quite resistant to treatment but he slowly improved,” Rod said.

During Archie’s stay in hospital there were a number of setbacks; at one point he required a ventilator as he wasn’t breathing well, he had to be intubated, he had a chest infection and then blood tests revealed sepsis, and he was also treated for meningitis.

“Everybody at the RCH has been mind-blowingly good; not just in the care of Archie but in their interaction with us as well. I was hesitant with Archie getting sick to hold or touch him, but everyone encouraged us to cuddle and hold him.”

The new hybrid incubator meant it was easy for Danica and Shaun to be close to Archie.

“Having Archie in the hybrid incubator meant we didn’t have that barrier between us. It was easy to touch him, to give him kisses, to change his nappy, it made a big difference,” Danica said.

Rod said a major benefit of the new technology is it gives doctors, nurses and allied health staff better access to critically ill and premature babies, like Archie.

“It allows us to weigh babies without removing them from the cot so that we can better monitor their nutrition. It also allows us to do procedures and surgery on babies without taking them off their bed because the sides can come down.”

After nearly ten weeks in hospital, Archie is now thriving at home with Danica, Shaun and his two-year-old brother Oli.

“Archie is doing well, we’re finally home with him. It’s great to have the whole family under one roof,” Danica said.

Thank you to our supporters

The new fleet of cutting-edge infant warmers and hybrid incubators will ensure the RCH continues to deliver the best care to Victoria’s sickest babies.

Thanks to support from the Good Friday Appeal, RCH Auxiliaries, generous fundraisers, corporate organisations and trusts and foundations, the RCH was able to purchase over 40 new infant warmers and hybrid incubators. This meant the hospital could replace its entire suite of old equipment, which was nearly 20 years old and approaching the end of its operating life.

The new infant warmers and hybrid incubators place staff and families in closer contact with critically ill infants, and allow for resuscitation and care equipment to be immediately at hand.

Director of Neonatal Medicine at RCH, Professor Rod Hunt said the funding was incredibly helpful because the fleet of incubators that these replaced were no longer fit for purpose.

“Thanks to donors support, we now have the best technology available for these critically ill babies. With the old devices, we couldn’t adjust the height of them, we didn’t have good access to the babies, we had to take them off their bed to weigh them, we had to take them off their beds to do different sorts of procedures on them, they didn’t have the same sort of technology in regards to temperature control, which is very important in premature babies. Now we are finally back in the twenty-first century.”