ImageImagine going home from the hospital and leaving behind your newborn child in the critical care ward for weeks or even months until they are healthy.  Now, thanks to web cameras, families can view their babies in the critical care unit 24/7 using a computer, Internet-connected TV, or smart phone. “These cameras are wonderful. They helped ease my mind, especially at night,” said Tracy Dennison, mother of a newborn who spent time in the UMass Memorial Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit/NICU in Worcester, MA.

The web cameras allow free access through a secure connection to parents, siblings, and extended family so they can view their newborn at any time and from anywhere.  American military families have benefited and one uncle even dialed in from a Navy ship in the Persian Gulf to get to know his new nephew.  When a Chinese mother gave birth to tiny twins, who were placed in the critical care unit, the web camera allowed her husband and family in China to see them.

“This Rotary service project is an example of a local effort with wide community support that has a global reach,” said Roy Balfour. He would like the Rotary Clubs in Suffolk County to get involved and expand this web cam project to five hospitals in Boston. “It’s important to recognize that when Rotary Clubs carefully select projects in which the community sees value, there’s a domino effect because people have a personal connection. It has been an amazing experience to watch how news of the special web cameras has spread. There are nine hospitals in Massachusetts with neonatal intensive care units; the other eight hospitals have heard about what Rotarians have done in Worcester and they want to install web cameras in their infant incubators. This is a project that touches people’s hearts. We followed a basic Rotary principle,” Balfour explained. “Do careful community assessment to identify a need that both the community and Rotarians see value in doing.  Public relations then become a more natural process, through stories the community relates to and wants to support.  It also generates a sense of Rotary pride that members like to share with others who see the impact value of becoming a Rotarian. What started as a single club project has evolved to include 12 clubs. The operative word is ‘engaging’ Rotarians in something that has a multi-community impact.”

“Hospitals are financially constrained and sometimes cannot ramp up projects like this as quickly as we would like. It’s amazing how the Rotarians stepped up to get club support and rally local business and philanthropic leaders to jump start the completion of our goal of providing a fantastic service to families . . .  wherever they are.”, said Dr. Alan Picarillo, chief, Division of Neonatology Medical Director, NICU at UMass Memorial Medical Center, who initiated the UMass webcam program.  See 3 minute video: