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Back in 2018, leaving behind not one, but two premature babies in the neonatal ward at John Hunter Children’s Hospital was a wrench for first-time parents Erin and Brett, whose twins Darby and Remy were born at 31 weeks.

Although their babies have since grown into boisterous, adventurous 2-year-olds, the couple will never forget the one thing that made the babies’ early days bearable: the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit’s (NICU) innovative webcam system, NICview.

The camera, installed onto every crib in the NICU, enabled them to log on from home and see their babies any time of the day or night via a secure login and a smartphone.

Funded by the Charitable Foundation, it continues to be an important lifeline for many parents with a baby in the hospital’s neonatal ward.

Helping parents’ mental health

Even though it’s two years old since Erin and husband Brett used NICview, she still remembers just how much it helped her mental health.

“I remember often panicking at night and I could log onto the NICview cameras from home – and while I couldn’t pick up the babies and hold them, I could see that they were ok and it stopped me from going mad,” Erin said.

“I believe having access to a live feed of the babies when I couldn’t be with them is a big part of why I didn’t suffer any postnatal depression.”

Embracing family life

These days, Erin and Brett are enjoying the double trouble that comes with having twins.

“They’re like chalk and cheese in nature but they both have happy, mischievous and social personalities,” Erin said.

“We’ve been on many adventures during their short lives, including beach fishing, several of their dad’s mountain bike events, and camping and four-wheel driving. Also, when you live on a farm, every day is an adventure – we go for bush walks, ride horses, feed the chickens and collect the eggs.”

Since their challenging early start in hospital, Darby and Remy have come forward in leaps and bounds, meeting their milestones and tiring their parents out.

“Every little win, every milestone they meet is just a huge blessing to us, whether it’s a new word or the ability to climb on the dining table,” Erin said.

“We often find ourselves sitting back, watching them – we can’t believe those once-tiny babies are now opening doors to escape!”

One on every crib

Although Erin and Brett are over the rollercoaster of Remy and Darby’s stressful start in life, she’ll never forget how much reassurance the medical staff and the NICview cameras at John Hunter Children’s Hospital gave them both.

“I really believe the cameras play an integral role in helping mothers recover mentally in those first few weeks. Leaving your babies behind is extremely distressing and goes against every protective, maternal instinct. When you can see your baby in real time and see that they’re ok, it gives you a sense of relief when things feel overwhelming,” Erin said.

“It’s just this tiny little camera, but it means the absolute world to the parents with a child in NICU. There’s no question about it – there should be one on every crib.”

Since the installation of NICview cameras at John Hunter Children’s Hospital, the Charitable Foundation has funded the expansion to the special care nursery at Tamworth Hospital, making the service available to more families in regional NSW.

About NICview

John Hunter Children’s Hospital in Newcastle, NSW is one of three children’s hospitals in NSW. The hospital’s NICU is part of the NSW network of neonatal units and services the Hunter, New England, and Mid North Coast regions of NSW. The families that often use NICU can live up to several hours away.When parents are discharged from hospital but their babies are required to stay in NICU it can be very distressing for them to be separated from their baby. NICview is a special webcam, which is placed in the NICU cribs. The cameras can connect to any device such as a mobile phone or tablet so families can watch over their baby from miles away.

The Charitable Foundation has provided almost $240,000 to the John Hunter Children’s Hospital Kids Club for the installation of NICview camera system on every crib at John Hunter Children’s Hospital NICU. Up to 1,200 families rely on NICview each year, making it a vital piece of technology for families to log in from home and connect with their babies.