EYE ON HEALTH: New device created to shorten preemies' stay in NICU
Having to go home while their triplets stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) was a helpless feeling for Jana Gallus and Gregor Martynus.
Gregor Martynus, the triplets' father says, "Every time we had to leave them there, yeah, it was very hard."
Then they learned of a new way to help their babies even when they couldn't be at the hospital.
Researchers are studying a device called a Pacifier Activated Lullaby (PAL). It's a lullaby written and sung by the babies' parents when they successfully suck on the pacifier.
Jenna Bollard, a researcher at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital says, "They love it, especially when they hear their parent's voices, they want to keep performing."
This is critically important for preemies born before 34 weeks, who often struggle to feed because they haven't developed the reflex to suck, breathe, and swallow.
Jeanna Bollard says, "Sometimes it's the last thing that needs to happen before an infant is discharged from the hospital is their ability to feed orally with strength and endurance."
Seventy-percent of preemies improved their proficiency using a pacifier when the PAL device was used, a skill that's important for feeding.
In hopes to shorten hospital stays while also empowering parents and easing their own emotional distress while their babies are in intensive care.
Registered Nurse Shelly Frisco says, "There's a role here that you play that no one else can fill that void, and it's critical and it's powerful."
Gregor Martynus says, "It helped us as parents, I think, just as much."
With the help of the PAL device, all three of the triplets fed better, grew stronger and were able to go home together at 52 days old.
Now they are healthy babies growing by the day and their parents say music continues to influence their development, just as it has since their first days in the world.
Jana Gallus, their mother says, "They're all healthy and there's really nothing more we could wish for."
With positive results for both babies and parents, experts are hoping that more hospitals will adopt the technology to help shorten stays in the NICU, reducing healthcare costs and helping families take their babies home as soon as possible.
Channel 3 checked with both Erlanger and Parkridge, but neither hospital has the "PAL" program at this time.