My wife Jeni and I welcomed our first child, Gwendolyn Hope Rainone (we call her Winnie), into this world on October 10th. Both mother and baby are doing wonderfully but the journey was not without it's stumbling blocks. As some of you may know, a common problem among newborns is jaundice, which is the buildup of a chemical called bilirubin in the body causing the skin and eyes to yellow.
As a new parent it is never desirable to hear that your baby needs to be readmitted to the hospital only five days after being born but the doctors assured us that the treatment was really simple and quite effective. It's phototherapy or light therapy!
Bilirubin is broken down by certain wavelengths of light (420-470nm) as it penetrates the skin, allowing the body to rid itself of the chemical more easily. In days past, if a child was jaundice after birth, the doctors would tell the parents to put the baby in a sunny window. Luckily modern LED technologies have made many things more efficient. The current inpatient therapy with "Bili-lights" is a combination of an overhead blue LED light system which can be paired with an internally illuminated blue LED platform to bathe an infant in as much light as possible for a period of 12-24 hours. The infant must wear eye protection to prevent any damage from the intense lighting but aside from that the procedure is completely non-invasive. As you can see in the photos, Winnie took to it like she was spending the day at the spa. I may have annoyed my wife by spending so much time investigating the lights and reading the labels on the machines but once a lighting designer, always a lighting designer.
My wife and I were amazed at the effectiveness of the treatment! Our daughter's bilirubin levels were cut in half in the span of only 12 hours of treatment and we were released the following afternoon.
I have to say that as a parent, I was incredibly grateful that this type of technology and treatment was available and that it is so effective in these situations. But as a lighting designer, I was fascinated by how a topic that is so close to my heart, lighting technology, ended up playing such a significant and unexpected role in the newest part of my life.