Coronavirus: Hadassah launches pediatric COVID-19 ICU as cases climb

“These babies need a hug, a touch."

A nurse works in the new COVID-19 ICU for children at Hadassah-University Medical Center (photo credit: Courtesy)
A nurse works in the new COVID-19 ICU for children at Hadassah-University Medical Center
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The country’s first coronavirus intensive care unit for children has opened at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Ein Kerem. 
“These are babies, whose parents or some other family members are also ill,” explained the unit’s head nurse Sonia Sharaby. “The parents can come here, but they are torn between caring for other children at home and staying here in the unit, next to their babies.”
On Friday morning, the unit, which is located next to the regular pediatric unit but completely isolated, already had four children being treated - babies who were in most cases intubated and anesthetized. 
Three of the children were considered in serious condition, and two of them had severe and chronic underlying medical conditions before contracting coronavirus.
The children range in age from 13 days old to two years old.
“These babies need a hug, a touch,” said Sharaby. “When there is no parent next to them, it is very difficult to think about how they are coping.” 
She said the staff, although dressed in their white personal protective uniforms and working long, cumbersome hours, tries to fill the void. Some of the staff members who are assigned to the unit also work in adult coronavirus units or are specialists who usually treat children with other serious illnesses. 
“I just completed a video call with the family of the six-week-old baby,” Sharaby explained. “All of his six siblings watched him and said how cute and sweet their brother is. It was heartbreaking.”
“Every child is a world," she added.
In recent weeks, the country has seen a spike in babies and young children becoming infected with the virus, as well as pregnant women. When these women develop serious cases of COVID-19, their babies are often delivered prematurely via emergency C-section, in order to allow full treatment of the mother. The babies generally do not have the virus, but they often require treatment in a pediatric ICU.
Last Tuesday, the Health Ministry gave approval for pregnant women to receive the coronavirus vaccine. 
According to the stance of the National Council for Women and the ministry’s committee for determining vaccination priority, women who are highly exposed to the public or who have preexisting medical conditions are encouraged to be vaccinated to prevent infection due to their likelihood of developing a serious case of COVID-19.