LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- When babies are born pre-maturely they often have complications and specialized needs that require the type of care only available at a neonatal intensive care unit. Comanche County Memorial Hospital's Level 2 NICU is the only one serving Southwest Oklahoma. The next closest is in Oklahoma City.
So for mothers like Eumika Thomas of Duncan it was easy to choose the one closest to home. Born at just 35 weeks, baby boy Hayven came a few weeks earlier than expected.
When Thomas was given the choice of CCMH or OU Children's Hospital in Oklahoma City, she says the decision was an easy one.
"It's closer. From where I'm from in Duncan. It's closer and driving back and forth would have been a bit much. So I decided to come here, and I like it," said Thomas.
Thomas says the staff has been so helpful and friendly. As a mother, Thomas says being comfortable with the people handling her little boy is very important.
"I know they're taking good care of my baby. I can trust them with him. Because that's really scary, coming over here and you know, not knowing what's going on with your child. But then when you get here everybody is hands on with him and letting me know what's going on with them. So yeah, I trust them," explained Thomas.
CCMH's level 2 NICU, takes care of babies born at 32 weeks old and above. And they use what is called hybrid telemedicine in partnership with OU Children's Hospital as a primary means to manage patients, which has never been done before.
The neonatologists are physically there 3 days a week, and the other 4 they are there on a high definition screen. For Thomas, having a Doctor communicate with her from a screen, didn't bother her at all.
"She was on the screen, talking to me about Hayven and what we were going to do. And everything that they have done, and all the tests that they've run on him. It was just like she was standing right in front of me. It was really good experience," Thomas exclaimed.
A recent study at CCMH's NICU, conducted over the last two years, showed that hybrid telemedicine is a safe and cost-effective strategy that helps puts CCMH up to par with level 4 NICU's like the one at OU Children's Hospital which for Dr. Makkar, the medical Director for CCMH's NICU, is very encouraging.
"I think it is very reassuring for the families to know that they can stay closer to home without being transferred to a level 4 NICU and still get the same quality of care," explained Dr. Makkar.
Since it opened in April of 2013, the NICU has had over 750 admissions, proving the need for a NICU in Southwest Oklahoma.
"Fifteen percent of our admissions are transfers from other hospitals. We have gotten admissions from Jackson County Memorial Hospital, from Duncan Regional, Fort Sill Reynolds, and a few from Southwestern in Lawton as well," Dr. Makkar said.
They are conducting another similar study to compare results, as well as satisfaction surveys from families. For Thomas, she couldn't be happier with the way things are going.
Baby Hayven came in weighing just 4 pounds and 12 ounces.
"And now he weighs 5 pounds 3 ounces. So he's been eating a lot," Thomas said.
Thomas says if she ever had to come back, she would choose CCMH again.
"He's just getting taken care of. Hopefully, we get to go home soon. But if not, that's fine, we'll stay here. Whatever works. Whatever he wants to do," Thomas expressed.
This recent study shows that CCMH's NICU offers the same high quality of care while keeping premature babies and families together right here at home.
For MedWatch 7, I'm Makenzie Burk.