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Roberta Shreve, Fargo, Published June 28 2013

Letter: Reporter needs lesson in NICU

Concerning Erik Burgess’ article on Kevin Wallevand (Forum, June 17), I was bothered by the reporter’s initial paragraphs describing Wallevand’s volunteer experience in a neonatal intensive care unit. It seems that Burgess needs to better acquaint himself with the NICU before he attempts to write about it, even briefly.

Based on my experience with volunteering for more than 1,000 hours in the Sanford NICU, I have never found the unit to be “in chaos.” Quite the contrary – for the most part, it is a calm, quiet place. And he would not find the NICU full of “bawling” infants. Yes, babies cry to communicate their needs, but highly qualified nurses quickly respond to their cries. Each of these nurses is assigned to two or three infants whose care they monitor closely, often taking time to cuddle their charges between providing the medical attention needed. Seldom would he find more than one or two infants (if any) crying in the unit at once. The nurses also attend to the parents, making sure they know they are welcome at any time and providing them with the detailed information they need to care for their babies.

Most disturbing is his comment about parents who “are unwilling” to be there. I would guess that Burgess would be hard-pressed to find such parents. It is not uncommon for an infant to be hospitalized for several weeks and sometimes months. Many parents come from across the tri-state area, so travel can be an issue. They also may have other young children to care for, and most are employed, with a maternity leave that does not cover the time the baby is in the NICU. It is demeaning to even suggest that they don’t want to be with their child.

Wallevand is to be thanked for his volunteer work in the NICU. That is one way to help the parents during this trying time, as well as to benefit the babies.

Burgess should arrange for a tour of a NICU the next time he considers writing about it. He will be awed.