Great Things Come in Small Packages
Noah Hulbert, Division 2, 12th grade #ws17e-s2d2

February 14th, also known as Valentine’s Day. This day was also supposed to be my birthday. February 14th, 2000, was Noah Hulbert’s expected date of birth. However, being the eager little baby I was, I decided that I did not want to wait three months more to be born. I decided to arrive into the world on November 19th, 1999. At the hospital, the doctors decided to put me into a neonatal isolette. The doctors said that I was born a little too early. I was born into a one pound, ten ounces, twelve inch body. In addition to many advanced life saving technologies, Neonatal Intensive Care Units, or NICUs, are used for many premature and sick infants. The NICU holds the isolettes to care for at-risk babies. The isolette’s job is to hold the baby while a healthcare professional provides special care for the tiniest patients. Because of this , I am now showing no signs of prematurity, maintain a 3.9 GPA in highschool, perform in musicals, and am striving for college to become a cognitive psychologist. Along with many advancements in the medical and technological field, the isolette was the most important technology of my life. Even though I had to go through many obstacles as a infant to be where I am now, I am thankful that I had an isolette in my life.

Babies that are declared premature are born three weeks before their due date. According to the World Health Organization, “Around the world, roughly fifteen million babies are born premature each year.” But with technology, still advancing each day, premature births can, and will, go down. With prematurity, many complications and disabilities tend to arise. These disabilities may include: learning, reading, hearing problems, and visual impairments. But these are just the children that survive prematurity. An estimated one million preemies do not survive their birth. While we may understand estimates, we should first understand the different types of premature babies. These types entail: Late-preterm, Preemie, and Micro-preemie babies. Late-preterm infants are born between the thirty-fourth and the thirty-seventh weeks of pregnancy. Preemies, which are born less than thirty-two weeks of pregnancy. Last, Micro-preemies, who are born less than twenty-five weeks of pregnancy. Neonatal care has only just begun. Advancements are still coming into the lives of many. However, there are some known causes of preterm births. Early births do not just happen because the baby feels like it. No baby would want to leave their warm bed of a womb. One factor of preterm births is age. People who are teenagers or are over thirty-five run the risk of having a premature birth. But, when the neonatal isolette was introduced, it changed everything.

In the mid-1850's, Etienne Stephane Tarnier created the first incubator. Tarnier concluded that infants who are born too early are often incapable of producing their own heat, and incubators help keep these babies warm and allow them to use their energy to grow and gain weight. Once realized, he created the first neonatal isolette. Though crude, it was a start. The isolette was made of a wooden box, a clear glass lid, and a hot water bottle put inside. People did not find Tarnier’s methods very conventional, so he dropped his studies all together. However, in the early 1900's, a man by the name of Martin Couney picked it up. He believed that there was still potential for the isolette. To raise awareness of this, Dr. Couney displayed the babies in a sideshow at Coney Island starting in 1903, and charged onlookers twenty-five cents a piece to come in and view the babies and the technology keeping them alive. Although the practice of displaying premature infants for money is certainly morally questionable, it helped pave the way for modern neonatal intensive care. Dr. Couney died in 1950, shortly after American hospitals began to use incubators to care for premature babies.

The neonatal isolette has one main purpose, to maintain environmental conditions suitable for a neonate (preterm baby). Like all technology, this incubator has many functions to help support the infant’s life. Some of the functions for the isolette include: oxygenation, observation, protection from harsh temperatures, and maintaining fluid balance. This incubator holds the baby until it has reached a suitable weight to be moved to a crib. Most hospitals consider sending the baby to a crib once they have reached between three and four pounds. These functions help the child achieve this goal weight. Oxygenation helps maintain oxygen levels in the body. Through oxygenation, infant respiratory distress syndrome is prevented, which is the biggest leading cause of death of preterm babies. Observation is the actual monitoring of the neonate’s temperature, respiration, brain activity, etc. The reason for temperature observation is to keep track of the infant’s body heat. Many preterms are not able to maintain their own body temperature due to the fact that they do not have as much tissue as full-term babies. Maintaining fluid balance started off as a tricky thing to do, but through brilliant minds and constant perseverance, it was achieved. Being put into a heated incubator increases humidity, thus reducing body fluid loss.

Overall, the neonatal isolette was, and still is, my most important piece of technology. While I do not own it, it helped me achieve many goals in life that doctors did not believe possible. Through the advancements of technology and neonatal care, many preterms are becoming stronger each day through the isolette. With this, they will be able to achieve things that are far beyond what would have been feasible one hundred years ago. To this day, thanks to the tireless efforts of so many doctors, nurses, and therapists, I am one of the survivors. I will always be thankful for the isolette, and its advancements, for being one of the greatest tools used in giving me this great life I am living. Although my fellow students may have initially read this prompt and attested to their cell phone, laptop, or the internet being their greatest piece of technology, I will always cherish the isolette as mine.

- Philip, Alistair G. S. (2005-10-01). ""The evolution of neonatology"" (PDF). Pediatric Research. 58 (4): 799–815. ISSN 0031-3998. PMID 15718376. doi:10.1203/01.PDR.0000151693.46655.66.

- Payne, Elizabeth. ""A Brief History of Advances in Neonatal Care."" Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month. N.p., 5 Jan. 2016. Web. 27 June 2017.

- ""Preterm Birth."" World Health Organization. World Health Organization, n.d. Web. 28 June 2017.
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