İlknur Ünüvar remembers exactly what she felt the first time she held her baby, Ahmet Alkın, who was born at just 25 weeks and weighed only 670 grams. “It was the most wonderful, most exciting, most anxious, luckiest, saddest, happiest, and most hopeful moment of my life.”
That flood of emotions came six days after Ilknur gave birth to fraternal twin boys, of which only Ahmet Alkin survived. He was rushed to the Selcuk University Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) under the care of Professor Hanifi, a Professor of Pediatrics & Neonatologist at the university.
Baby Ahmet Alkın spent the next 90 days in an infant incubator in the NICU, followed by another two months at the hospital, before he was discharged.
Thinking back to that first touch with her son, Ilknur said, "At that moment, which I will never forget, my baby's heart was pounding in the palm of my hand, and that day I believed in his strength. When we put him on my chest, he just fell asleep with his hand on his cheek.”
The power of that contact is one reason why Ilknur and her husband Emre Ünüvar can’t emphasize enough the importance of “kangaroo care,” the practice of facilitating skin-to-skin contact between baby and parents, especially for preterm babies. They also advise other parents of preterm babies to spend as much time as possible with their newborns, making sure the infants feel their parents’ presence, even when they are in the NICU.
"They should patiently and proudly be involved in this miraculous process, whose progress is vacillating, and grows by the gram. It really takes courage to be the mother and father of a premature baby."
The kangaroo care and close parental interaction with Ahmet Alkin was made easier by the GE Healthcare Giraffe Omnibed Carestation, the neonatal incubator used by the hospital, which is designed for family-centered care.
Thinking back to the long months her baby was in the hospital, Ilknur remembers how important it was that she and her husband maintained an optimistic outlook, helped by the incredible support of the hospital team. "We were generally positive and full of hope. Doctors and nurses were concerned for parents as much as they were with their babies. We shared our happiness and sadness firstly with them. Just like a family!”
One example of this was when Emre was able to hold Ahmet Alkin for the first time, when the baby was 43 days old and weighed just over 1 kg. Filled with emotions and in tears, the father recalled, “It was an incredible feeling!"
Today, thanks to the loving commitment of his parents and the skill, dedication and support of the hospital staff, Ahmet Alkın is now a healthy and happy toddler, apart from lung issues resulting from having been intubated for the first 2.5 months of his life.
The couple says they were encouraged during the long months by a quote given to them by a consultant to parents of preterm babies. From the spiritualist Osho, it says: "Life is made up of little things; they become bigger if you love them."
As Ahmet Alkin celebrates his second birthday, this active and intelligent boy who now weighs more than 9 kg is a clear demonstration of the wisdom of this statement.
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