“Addiction does not discriminate.
It will take hold and destroy anyone
Addiction hides in the faces of
in its path, including families and people who love them.
everyday people all around us.”
This has been an eventful year at PICC, receiving babies both locally and from just about every corner of Washington State. Drug addiction hits every family, every community, and every economic level in our state and every other state. Each drug-exposed baby comes to us with its own story. The stories are very similar--some better, some worse. I think I’ve heard it all, and then another baby arrives with a story that makes me wonder how these precious little ones survive. They do survive, though, and with the right care they get better. After the first few weeks of stabilization the babies are on their road to recovery, and we look forward to being able to snuggle and cuddle with them. The happiness is bittersweet, though, because at that point they are telling us that they’re ready to go home.
Again this year we’ve had visitors from across the state and country coming to see PICC and meet with me in hopes of opening a center like ours. They’ve heard about the impact of illicit drugs on their own communities, and they want to help the little ones. Just recently I’ve talked with people wanting to start centers in Ohio, Washington, West Virginia, and Arizona. We also have medical professionals who come to PICC to learn from our long experience of taking care of newborns with prenatal drug exposures so they can improve the care of these babies in their own hospitals and communities. Recent visiting medical professionals have included nurses from Washington and Ohio, and doctors from Virginia and Arizona. Even with all the training we have done both here and throughout the U.S., PICC continues to be the only stand-alone interim medical center for drug exposed infants. There is one other I have worked with in West Virginia, but they are affiliated with a hospital for their funding and staffing.
After 27 years, I’m not doing the direct management of the babies any longer. I wear only one hat today, and that is administration, but I still love being around the babies. I spend most of my time in my office downstairs so I can hear the sounds of the babies and peek at the new arrivals as they come through the door. It’s still the best job in the world!
The majority of the babies who have come to PICC for care this year have been exposed to heroin and methamphetamines. Lately, we have had a number of little ones weighing just over 4 pounds. A few of their stories leave us wondering how they survived their birth. One newborn was found hours after birth with the mother unconscious on the floor and the placenta still attached. Another newborn came to us after being born in the restroom of a hotel. Despite the dangerous circumstances of their birth, both of these babies are now doing fairly well and making progress through their withdrawal. I’m always amazed at how very resilient the babies are. It’s an honor for us to be able to give them a safe, loving home for a few weeks and to watch as they start their journey, into what we all hope, will be a great future.
Babies are cute but are not little adults. Their body proportions are quite different with their head much larger proportionately and with relatively sparse hair, which can cause them to lose a lot of body heat easily through their scalp. Parents often ask me what temperature they should set their baby’s room—I suggest keeping it the same as before, but then dressing baby appropriately. Unless the baby is especially small, this means putting on about one light layer of clothing more than what the adult is wearing. However, because of the large head surface area, it is often helpful to put a hat on your baby, especially if they get cold hands or feet.
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