British Columbia

Special neonatal program at Vancouver hospital celebrates 1-year anniversary

Golden Hour program at B.C. Women's Hospital aims to minimize mother's trauma following complicated births

Golden Hour program aims to minimize mother's trauma following complicated births

Nicole Dillman, one of the first mothers to participate in the Golden Hour program, holds her newborn baby last August. (B.C. Women's Hospital and Health Centre)

When a baby requires critical care immediately after birth, the infant is often whisked away to another part of the hospital, leaving parents stricken with worry.

The Golden Hour program at B.C. Women's Hospital attempts to avoid that trauma by keeping mother and baby together during the first hour of life, even if the child requires life-saving medical attention.

The practice — the first of its kind in North America — launched last July, just in time for the arrival of Nicole Dillman's daughter, Eleanor. 

At 31 weeks pregnant, Dillman had to be airlifted from her home in Whitehorse, Yukon, to Vancouver after suddenly developing preeclampsia. The pregnancy complication involves high blood pressure and can sometimes be fatal for both the mother and baby.

Dillman had a C-section a few days after arriving at B.C Women's Hospital. Typically, a mother in her position would watch as hospital staff rushed her baby off to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). 

Instead, the new mother watched her daughter's first moments of life, thanks to the Golden Hour program.

The hospital had set up a camera over Eleanor's operating table and a television over her mother's, allowing Dillman to see everything doctors and nurses did. 

"It was a scary experience," she told Michelle Eliot, guest host of CBC's The Early Edition, on Wednesday. "So, just being able to see that she's OK and she's being taken care of — that was really amazing."

Since Golden Hour's launch last summer, more than 200 families have participated in the program.

Before its implementation, partners would have to choose between staying with the mother as she recovered or leaving to be with the newborn in the NICU, said Danica Hamilton, senior practice leader in the hospital's neonatal program. 

Hamilton said the program has also allowed doctors to provide critical medical attention to babies like Eleanor more quickly. 

"If you can put in antibiotics, give them fluid, give them glucose and have all of that care supported within the first hour ... their long term outcomes of survival are much better," she said. 

On Wednesday, Eleanor celebrated her first birthday. And though her birth may have been unique, her dad's reaction that day was like most new fathers.

"I just remember my husband's face. He was just so excited," said Dillman. He probably took just as many photos of the floor as he did of Eleanor, she added with a laugh.

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