When little Shiloh Japal returns to Trillium Health Partners’ Mississauga hospital, the nursing staff in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) come running.
“You remember us, don’t you!” the unit clerk says as Shiloh coos back at her.
Mom Shabida is beaming, holding her growing, healthy baby girl.
It was not that long ago that Shiloh was a patient in the NICU, and Shabida was making daily trips to spend time with her firstborn.
“I started getting pain in my lower back in the morning,” Shabida recalled about the day she went into preterm labour. “I was scared because it was not time yet, it’s way too early.”
Shabida was 30 weeks pregnant.
Shiloh was born weighing just three pounds.
“Oh my god, she’s going to get taken away, what’s going to happen, is she going to survive,” Shabida remembered thinking on Dec. 20, 2018.
It was a frightening time for the first-time mom.
“They were actually saying that they might have to send her off to SickKids,” she said.
The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto offers the most acute care to the most fragile babies in the province.
Shabida worried that sending her baby downtown would be physically and financially straining for her.
“There are provincial levels of care, and in order to reach those levels of care, to provide the different things that are required to provide care to premature babies in a community, you have to have equipment, you have to have trained staff, you have to have many things in place,” explained Lena Lloyd, NICU patient care manager at Trillium Health Partners.
Thanks to a new, award-winning partnership with SickKids, Trillium Health Partners is able to keep preemie babies like Shiloh closer to home.
That was a blessing, says Shabida, because her daughter spent 59 days in hospital.
“The best news was that she is going to be home. I consider here home,” she said.
Shabida said she could not imagine having to commute downtown to see her baby and spend time with her for such a long period of time.
“Part of this partnership was, first of all, identifying where the gaps were and then addressing the gaps, and so through the partnership with SickKids, we were able to obtain new ventilators,” explained Lloyd.
“Up until a few years ago, we were looking at babies who are born 32 weeks gestation and above. Now we can see babies as early as 30 weeks gestation,” said pediatrician and neonatologist Dr. Catherine Taylor, who is implementing the new program. “It also means that babies born even earlier than that, when they get their care downtown, they can come back to Mississauga sooner so families can have the care closer to home.”
Taylor said the benefits of caring for these tiny patients in their own community are endless.
“A lot of things that preterm babies, in particular, need to do to get home are things that we need parents to be involved with,” said Taylor, adding: “When we can keep them closer to home or provide more care closer to home, those families can be more active and more involved in their baby’s care, which gets them home sooner.”
Shabida now comes for regular checkups with Shiloh and considers the staff at the Mississauga hospital her family.
She spent last Christmas in hospital, but Shiloh is growing and thriving, and the family is now looking forward to spending the holidays at home.