ROANOKE, Va. – Many people are keeping in touch with loved ones virtually during the coronavirus pandemic, but for some parents, that’s the only way they can communicate with their own babies.
Chrystal Hall hasn't seen her newborn son in a week, after Carilion banned all visitors from the NICU.
Respiratory issues forced the Bluefield woman to be put on a ventilator and taken to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where doctors decided she needed a c-section at 31 weeks. A few days later, the visitor restrictions went into effect.
“Being without him, it's just, it's rough,” Hall said. “My son's going on two weeks old and he doesn't know who I am. I don't know who he is.”
She spent less than three hours with Archer before being banned from the NICU.
“I felt like he'd been kidnapped. I felt like I wasn't going to get to see him and I felt like he was going to be 18 and driving before I get to see him again. I still feel that way,” Hall said.
The only way she has seen Archer since last week is through video chat. She gets a five to 10-minute virtual visit every morning.
“I try to take screenshots as much as possible because when he gets older, it's going to be, 'Well, where's my first baby pictures?' And you know it's going to be via FaceTime,” Hall said.
Hall said nothing can replace real face time and she wants Carilion to find a way to make that happen, allowing a parent to be with their child; however limited it may be.
“Just thinking about being able to touch him and hold him and watch him grow I mean it would mean everything to me and I know it'd mean a whole bunch to him you know knowing who his mother is when he comes home,” Hall said.
Hall said Archer is expected to have to stay in the NICU for at least ten more days.
Dr. Kimberly Dunsmore, chair of Carilion Children’s Hospital, responded to 10 News’ request for comment with the following statement:
“Closing the NICU to all visitors was an incredibly difficult decision to have to make. Families are so important in the bonding process, and we did not make this decision lightly.
Our NICU consists of five pods that contain 12 beds in each; there are no private rooms. Additionally, employees wear necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with NICU patients.
Should there be a visitor exposure or an asymptomatic COVID-19 carrier, it would put the patients and care teams at risk. Moreover, if our highly trained NICU providers had to be quarantined, it would be difficult to find specialized staff to ensure seamless care. Ultimately, even though it is so difficult for families, restricting visitors is the safest way to protect our NICU babies, their families and their care teams.
We’re partnering with families to host a virtual connection to their children and our care teams. We’re also working closely with our infectious disease experts to assess the situation daily and reopen to visitors as soon as it is deemed safe.”