Neonatal Intensive Care

The words “Intensive Care” when said aloud are pretty terrifying. I’ve never been in any form of intense medical environment, heck I can’t even watch medical TV programmes.

The morning Clara was wheeled over to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) from High Dependency (HDU) my nerves were a wreck. What would it be like in there? Would the machines beep louder than in HDU? Would sick babies be screaming in pain? It would be hell.

In reality, it’s lot a different to that. It’s bright, spacious, and full of poorly babies and very caring nurses. The babies are mostly silent, only the machines beep away as a reminder that there’s forms of life sleeping in those little incubators covered with colourful fleeces.

Intensive care close up

In HDU there’s one nurse to every three babies. In ICU there’s one nurse to every one or two babies depending on their needs. The care is unquestionably fantastic – for both babies and parents. Perhaps that’s why it’s called intensive care after all.

Clara has been living in intensive care for over a week now. She’s had some fantastic nurses – Alison, Grace, and Irene to name but a few. These ladies truly are angels – they remind you you’re still mum. Just because Clara is dependent on a million tubes, doesn’t mean she’s also not dependent on me.

Every morning the consultants and doctors do a ward round. They spend around 20 minutes with each baby talking amongst each other in complex medical language, reviewing every number and comment recorded by the nurses in the last 12 hours, along with any test results. They then take the time to talk to us in layman’s terms about what this means for Clara’s care going forward for the next 12 hours. This could mean anything from leave her to continue on the current support as she is, to reducing her morphine, to going back down to the operating theatre.

You’d assume, like I did, that the nurses job is to take care of your baby in ICU. I never once thought they’d also be as concerned about us parents. They remind us to have breakfast, offer to make us cups of tea during the day, and work around us doing all their important cares for Clara but allowing us to be parents first and foremost. They’ve also gone beyond our expectations even more arranging for us to see a psychologist same day when we were told terrifying news, arranging on site accommodation should we wish to stay nearby and more.

The neonatal unit at the John Radcliffe in Oxford is considered one of the best in the world. We are so lucky to live so close.

The NHS truly is a wonderful thing. And Intensive Care is intense – but it’s the best place in the world for my little girl right now and I couldn’t be happier with the care she’s getting.

2 thoughts on “Neonatal Intensive Care

  1. Thanks for sharing the your experience with intensive neonatal care and how you handled it. My friend will be having a baby soon, but expect many complications due to family history. Do you have any tips for her?


    1. Hi Bethany, how exciting your friend has a baby on the way. Despite the complications, it’s so important for the baby to know and feel how loved he/she is. I truly believe it gives them so much strength. The best advice I can give would be to interact with baby as much as possible – hold them if she can, read, sing, talk to them. Bonding with baby is so important, especially when they’re highly medicalised. Please tell your friend to listen, ask questions, and always trust her gut feeling – mum really does know baby best.


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