Prematurity Awareness Month Fact #12:
A common treatable condition of premature babies is hyperbilirubinemia, which affects 80% of premature infants. Infants with hyperbilirubinemia have high levels of bilirubin, a compound that results from the natural breakdown of blood. This high level of bilirubin causes them to develop jaundice, a yellow discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes. Although mild jaundice is fairly common in full-term babies (about 60%), it's much more common in premature babies. Extremely high levels of bilirubin can cause brain damage, so premature infants are monitored for jaundice and treated quickly, before bilirubin reaches dangerous levels. Jaundiced infants are placed under special lights that help the body eliminate bilirubin. Rarely, blood exchange transfusions are used to treat severe jaundice.
Morgan Kate was treated for hyperbilirubinemia for several days after her birth. There was a special light attached to her bed and she had to wear eye protection, which we called her "shades". Below is a picture of MK and her Uncle Owens.