Gillian Hayes, Ph.D., Estrellita Principal Investigator, University of California, Irvine
Beyond the scientific merit, this project has been a learning experience for me, first as a pregnant woman and now as a new mother. I previously wrote about the challenges of recruiting in the NICU when my unborn child was “older” gestationally than the infants we were attempting to enroll in our study. My baby is now 15 weeks old and healthy as can be. We had an easy delivery with only 30 minutes of pushing and were then moved to the Mother-Baby unit; our hospital makes a point of caring for mother and baby together in one room with a shared nurse. Unfortunately, soon after after my son’s birth, I experienced serious complications that led to a blood transfusion and eventual re-admittance to the hospital. As a result, we were split apart as a mother-baby unit and we were treated as individuals when he was only days old.
It was at this point that the importance of treating a mother and her newborn as a unit really hit home for me. If I was sick, he couldn’t eat properly. If he was sick, I worried and it exacerbated my already delicate condition. Every medication I took showed up in his system several hours later.
My very sleep-deprived husband proved his worth as a father in those days. With our families far away, he first had to care for our son by himself while I was hospitalized and then had to care for both of us when I returned home. He used a low-tech (pen and paper) and elaborate (many columns, careful tracking) system for monitoring the intake of my pain and cardiac medications, blood pressure readings, and sleep as well as the baby’s eating and diapering. We eventually transferred these data into Excel and began to search for patterns.
Now that I am healthy, we continue to look for patterns – only now, my husband and I are using our team’s mobile app to record data. Estrellita enables this kind of pattern-searching by letting me examine the baby’s fussiness and my mood (common ODLs for all participants) alongside tables of the foods I eat and naps he takes. It also lets me check my mood and whether I am showing any signs of depression.
The thing I love best about the phone app? I can enter data at night in the dark without having to get out of bed, walk into the bathroom where there is light, and document something on paper (which is what we were doing before we started using Estrellita).
There is, of course, always room for improvement. Future generations of Estrellita should allow for more elaborate visualizations to compare data amongst different ODLs, much like the Chronology.MD concept of stories being told through the data. And, even better would be if more of these data could be collected automatically like in the dwellSense project, because I have also experienced how hard it is to have the time, energy, and brain power to track anything. There is still much work to be done!
Creative Commons photo by MightyBoyBrian.