Compassionate care in the comfort of home

When Nick and Jeannie Fischer’s son, Calvin, was born, Jeannie thought it would be a breeze. As a second-time mom and stepmom, she felt confident that taking care of her newborn would be easy compared to the first time around.

“But as we were getting ready to leave the hospital, our pediatrician, Dr. Katherine Kormanik, stopped us. She wanted to retest Calvin’s bilirubin levels,” explained Jeannie. “They turned out to be higher than normal.”

Babies born with high bilirubin levels develop a condition called newborn jaundice, which causes yellow-tinted skin and eyes. It happens because the liver often isn’t yet fully able to process bilirubin. High levels in newborns can become dangerous. Very high levels can result in permanent brain damage.

“It was scary, but Dr. Kormanik was very reassuring and told us it was treatable, and we could go home.”

The first course of action was to make sure Calvin was eating regularly.

“One of the ways to flush bilirubin from the system is by eating a lot. I had already decided to breastfeed and supplement with formula, which Dr. Kormanik said would help. She also recommended we put him near a window because sunlight can help reduce bilirubin levels.”

Jeannie brought Calvin back to the hospital the following day for more testing. His levels were still high. Over the next 2 weeks, he’d have his levels tested 10 times.

“It was stressful because the testing involves a blood draw from his heel. It was hard to watch my baby in pain,” she recalled. “In addition, I had to bring my other son, who wasn’t quite 2 years old, to all the appointments.”    

The next steps

Calvin’s levels were improving, but not fast enough. So, Dr. Kormanik ordered a bili blanket, which is a portable phototherapy device that treats neonatal jaundice.

“We’d already exhausted all the home options, so this was the next course of treatment,” said Jeannie.

Within an hour of ordering the device, Jeannie got a call from Aurora Health at Home to let her know it would be delivered to her house.

“A lovely man named John showed up with a whole packet of materials and the bili blanket machine. He was super friendly and helpful. He explained all the insurance paperwork, what Aurora Health at Home was – and how to use the bili blanket, which looked intimidating to me.”

John helped Jeannie get Calvin into the blanket, which would expose his skin to a special light that would help break down his bilirubin levels and treat his jaundice.

It turned out to be a lifesaver for Jeannie and her family.

“If Aurora Health at Home didn’t have this machine, I would’ve had to take Calvin back to the hospital and he would have been readmitted. Or I might not have been able to take him home in the first place.”

Calvin spent 6 days using the bili blanket.

“He was tested a few more times, and his levels were finally normal. Now he’s almost 2 years old and perfectly healthy.”

Jeannie is so grateful for the convenience of Aurora Health at Home.

“It made a difficult time much easier. I thought I would have to pick up the bili blanket somewhere,” she explained. “The fact that someone brought it to my home and explained how to use it in a caring and compassionate way meant so much to me and my family.”

Aurora Health at Home is also valuable service to the doctors who care for patients like Calvin.

“As a physician, I am grateful for Aurora Health at Home since it helps me to keep newborns at home with their families for treatment of jaundice,” explained Dr. Kormanik. “Aurora Health at Home does a wonderful job of delivering home phototherapy 24/7 for us – at night, on weekends, on holidays – which is quite extraordinary.”

How you can help

Aurora Health at Home has been providing comprehensive home care throughout eastern Wisconsin for more than 100 years, allowing people to receive care where they are most comfortable.

Many of Aurora Health at Home’s services are made possible by the generosity of donors like you. Please consider making a gift to support this compassionate and convenient care today.

As a newborn, Calvin received treatment for jaundice at home with the help of a special phototherapy blanket.

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