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Incubator saves baby Ivy's life

DANIELLE STREET
Last updated 05:00 12/12/2012
Baby Ivy
SUPPLIED

IN CARE: Mother Annelise Yarrell travelled to the hospital every day, to spend time with baby Ivy.

Baby Ivy
JASON OXENHAM
JOYFUL BUNDLE: Annelise Yarrell with baby Ivy, who was born three months premature and survived with the help of high-tech incubators.

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It's hard to imagine baby Ivy was fighting for her life not so long ago.

Her mother Annelise Yarrell contracted a mysterious infection when pregnant that caused Ivy to be born more than three months premature at 27 weeks.

"When Ivy held my hand her hand was the size of my thumbnail," the Pt Chevalier resident recalls.

The early birth meant that Ivy had underdeveloped lungs and was dependent on assisted ventilation.

The Newborn Intensive Care Unit in Auckland's Starship children's hospital was her home for the first three months of her life.

There she spent six weeks in a womb-like incubator that regulated her temperature and humidity while she matured.

It was a long five days before Mrs Yarrell could even hold her newborn.

"Granted it was a comedy of errors with all the wires and tubes and everything, but it was worth it," she says.

Starship Foundation spokeswoman Cindy Carleton says about 900 infants are admitted to the unit each year.

"There are around 30 to 40 incubators in the NICU currently but with the rate of premature babies that come in, we always need more," Ms Carleton says.

One in 10 babies are born prematurely and need to spend some time in an incubator.

Premature infants often have little or no ability to maintain their body temperatures so incubators provide the warm environment they need to survive and thrive.

The sophisticated incubators used at the NICU don't come cheap, costing around $25,000 each.

"Twenty years ago an incubator was essentially just a sterile box but now they have everything hooked up to them so they are worth a lot of money," Ms Carleton says.

Generous fundraising efforts by branch staff at Barfoot & Thompson have just seen six more incubators added to the hospital's fleet.

The firm is a five-star partner of the Starship Foundation and has already raised a total of $133,000 for the cause - doubling its annual target.

Branches raised the sum by holding fashion shows, quiz nights, comedy debates, movie nights and Trade Me auctions, managing director Peter Thompson says.

"We are extremely passionate and committed, and now very excited to be able to provide these warm, clean and safe new homes for premature babies," Mr Thompson says.

The new incubators are ergonomic, providing good access for medical staff and for new parents to feed, bathe and change the nappies of their babies.

They allowed baby Ivy and her mother to bond during the emotional experience.

Mrs Yarrell travelled to the hospital every day to spend hours with Ivy - often caring for her through two arm holes in the sides of the incubator.

"You can do everything through them they are amazing, in essence they are the womb that baby should otherwise be in."

Ivy is now strong and healthy.

Mrs Yarrell says her recovery is thanks to the care of the staff at NICU and the high-tech incubators she lived in.

"They are absolutely life-saving," Mrs Yarrell says.

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