Neonatal Virtual Visiting Pilot Underway at Alder Hey

After an extensive period of testing and trialling, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital’s unique virtual monitoring system, developed to support new parents separated from their babies, has been used for the first time.

New parents Michelle and Gary Asquith became the first family to benefit from “The Lydia Project”, kindly funded by The 23 Foundation, when it was piloted earlier this month.

Mum Michelle gave birth to beautiful twins Amy and Sophie on the 1st March and Amy was born with a condition called Exomphalos, which occurs when the abdomen does not develop fully in the womb. This can cause the abdominal organs such as the bowel and the liver to grow outside the body. The condition is rare, affecting around 2 in every 10,000 births and can usually be corrected with specialist neonatal surgery.

“When she was born, I only saw Amy for a few minutes before she was taken to the neonatal unit,” explained Michelle. “A couple of hours later she was on her way in an ambulance to Alder Hey. I was still recovering from my C-section at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital so couldn’t go with her, and her twin sister Sophie had to stay with me.

Our relatives were able to visit Amy and then come and see me and tell me about seeing her. I was glad she had people visiting her, but it was really upsetting to not be able to see her myself.”

When dad Gary came to visit Amy at Alder Hey he met Simon Minford, clinical lead for “The Lydia Project”, who told him about how this innovative solution could help Gary and other parents in their situation.

Gary said: “I was able to see Amy the day after she went to Alder Hey but was then torn between both hospitals to see her, Sophie and Michelle. When Simon asked if we would be willing to take part in a pilot of a new piece of kit that would allow us to virtually visit Amy while in the Women’s, I jumped at the chance. I knew it would be a lovely surprise for Michelle, who hadn’t seen Amy since she left for Alder Hey.”

Using the system, Michelle and Gary were able to see high definition imagery of Amy and interact with her through a tablet securely linked to her incubator in Alder Hey’s Neonatal Unit. “It was incredible being able to see Amy from my bed at the Women’s,” Michelle continues. “The virtual visiting system really helped us through what was an overwhelming time. It brought us together as a family even though we were separated and in different hospitals. I could see Amy sleeping in her incubator and nurses treating her, and this gave me the reassurance that I desperately needed, to know that she was ok and was being looked after.”

Speaking of the project’s inaugural trial, Simon Minford said:

“We were thrilled to have had the opportunity to pilot our neonatal virtual visiting tool which has been in development here at Alder Hey for a while. As paediatric clinicians, we understand how important it is that new parents spend as much time as possible with their baby when they are born but that they can sometimes be separated when like Amy, the baby requires treatment at another hospital. Feedback from Michelle and Gary will be really helpful as we make finishing touches to the system. We are really excited and we hope to be able to make it more widely available soon so that we can help other families in similar situations.”

We are extremely grateful to Jamie Carragher and The 23 Foundation for generously supporting this project, and we look forward sharing more updates over the next few months as this project develops.
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