Babies suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is an epidemic in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) across the country. On average 5 babies a month are born suffering from NAS at Orange Park Medical Center alone.

NAS is a group of conditions caused when a baby withdraws from certain drugs they are exposed to in the womb. Some symptoms include body shakes, seizures, fussiness, poor feeding, breathing problems, fever and more. NAS is most often caused by drugs classified as opioids.

On August 4th a baby boy was born with NAS at Orange Park Medical Center suffering from excessive crying and trembling lasting through his first weeks of life.

The staff in Orange Park Medical Center's NICU collectively wrapped their arms around him taking turns holding and comforting him around the clock. One Labor and Delivery employee, Donna Hightower began visiting him often to hold and calm him on her lunch breaks, before and after her shift and on her days off. "I fell in love with him," said Donna Hightower. When he turned 5 weeks old Hightower brought him home serving as his foster parent.

"He didn't have a choice to have this life. I just want him to have a good life whether it's with me or in a forever home," said Donna. Donna says the outpour of care and support she has received from other staff members has been overwhelming.

"NAS is becoming more and more common. Our NICU has been busier than ever and part of that is due to the increase of babies being born addicted to drugs. All of our staff have such big hearts when it comes to our babies and they amaze me every day with the extra care and attention they give to these babies with special needs," said Suzanne Jones, Women and Children's Services Director at Orange Park Medical Center.

As our community continues to fight the surge of opioid users showing up in emergency rooms Orange Park Medical Center wants to raise awareness to the issues we are seeing in the delivery room.