Gracie Clarke was born at Western Memorial Regional Hospital on Aug. 12 weighing 7 lb 8 oz. Wells and her husband Kyle Clarke had to travel from their home in Port aux Basques to Corner Brook for Gracie’s delivery because their local hospital doesn’t offer obstetrical services.
That wasn’t so bad, as Wells fully expected to only be in the hospital for a couple of days. However, things didn’t work out as planned.
“Two days after she was born they noticed that she was jaundiced,” said Wells.
Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and other tissues of a newborn infant that is a result of a high bilirubin level. Bilirubin is an orange-yellow pigment formed in the liver by the breakdown of hemoglobin that is excreted in bile.
Wells was already discharged at this point but Gracie couldn’t be, so she had to stay in the hospital with her because she was breastfeeding.
For the next two days Gracie underwent daily blood tests to check her bilirubin level. This was no pleasant experience for mom or her baby.
On the fourth day after her birth, Gracie’s bilirubin level was really high and she had to be put under phototherapy in an incubator out at the nurse’s station.
“It was very emotional,” said Wells of how it felt to not be able to be near her baby.
“It was really difficult especially the first time leaving her there because she’s only four day, it’s my first child and to have to leave her without me. For the first four days she was in the room with me, right next to me. I could see her all the time,” said Wells. “So it was a bit hard to do that, to leave her there.”
The separation was made all the more difficult because Wells was breastfeeding. She said it was really important to be next to Gracie and learn her feeding cues.
But for the 24-hours Gracie received the phototherapy Wells could only breastfeed her for about 10 minutes each time and then she had to be supplemented by bottle feeding.
Gracie’s bilirubin level went down after the phototherapy treatment and just a day shy of turning one week old was released from the hospital.
She had repeat bilirubin tests done twice since going home, but Wells said other than still looking a little yellow, from what her doctor now refers to as breastfeeding jaundice, is healthy and growing. At five weeks old she weighed 8 lb 1 oz.
“She just looks like she’s got a tan,” said Wells with a laugh.
Wells is really happy that Western Memorial was equipped to treat Gracie’s jaundice.
“She did get better, the phototherapy did work.”
But she’s also pleased to hear that the hospital will soon be better equipped to treat infants with jaundice.
The Western Regional Hospital Foundation has earmarked $114,000 of the nearly half a million dollars it hopes to raise for this year’s case for support to the hospital’s maternal/newborn unit.
One piece of equipment that will be purchased is a biliblanket or phototherapy blanket.
This blanket will enable parents to hold their children while they are getting the phototherapy.
“Which I think would be wonderful,” said Wells.
She said it will be easier for moms to continue to breastfeed and just be close to their babies which is so important in the first few days.
To help raise the money needed the foundation is holding its annual radiothon on Sept. 28. The one-day event will be broadcast live on CFCB radio from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. To donate call 634-3111.