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U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka recently purchased a Noelle system to train the staff in the labor and delivery ward. Noelle is a computerized system that mimics birth, from the first contraction forward.

U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka recently purchased a Noelle system to train the staff in the labor and delivery ward. Noelle is a computerized system that mimics birth, from the first contraction forward. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka recently purchased a Noelle system to train the staff in the labor and delivery ward. Noelle is a computerized system that mimics birth, from the first contraction forward.

U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka recently purchased a Noelle system to train the staff in the labor and delivery ward. Noelle is a computerized system that mimics birth, from the first contraction forward. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

Corpsmen at U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka often provide neonatal resuscitation -- the immediate care for the baby after birth -- and use the hospital's Noelle baby as a test subject. In this scenario, Petty Officer 3rd Class Theodore Hinunangan sees the blue tones on the baby's extremities and treats it for cyanosis.

Corpsmen at U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka often provide neonatal resuscitation -- the immediate care for the baby after birth -- and use the hospital's Noelle baby as a test subject. In this scenario, Petty Officer 3rd Class Theodore Hinunangan sees the blue tones on the baby's extremities and treats it for cyanosis. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

Lt. Aaron Myers, bottom right, simulates a newborn baby's heartbeat while Petty Officer 3rd Class Theodore Hinunangan monitors the baby during a labor training exercise.

Lt. Aaron Myers, bottom right, simulates a newborn baby's heartbeat while Petty Officer 3rd Class Theodore Hinunangan monitors the baby during a labor training exercise. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

Noelle is meant to familiarize new Navy nurses and corpsmen with the rigors of delivery and to keep the staff's skills sharp.

Noelle is meant to familiarize new Navy nurses and corpsmen with the rigors of delivery and to keep the staff's skills sharp. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Congratulations, Noelle. You are the proud mother of a plastic, gender-neutral baby.

Again!

If it’s a slow day in U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka’s labor and delivery ward, Noelle might have that plastic baby several times over. She stays in labor all day — all week — with infinite variations on delivery.

This time, the baby gets stuck in the birth canal. Next, the mother experiences postpartum hemorrhage. Thankfully, her parts are plastic, too.

The computerized mother-and-baby set is the newest addition to “the baby farm” — a place where new additions are nothing new.

But the staff is glad to have the simulator, which represents the cutting edge in delivery room training, said Division Officer Lt. Aaron Myers.

The hospital bought the Gaumard-made Noelle Maternal Neonatal Simulation System a few months ago for $20,000, Myers said. It is the only military hospital in Japan that has anything like it, he said.

“We can input fetal vital signs, simulate a heart attack, even add liquids to simulate hemorrhage,” Myers said. “The only thing missing is the audio sounds of a woman in labor, and I’d like to add that in if mothers will let me record them.”

The ward is a busy place in Yokosuka — the staff delivers an average of 50-70 babies a month. In 2006, they brought 625 infants into the world, Myers said.

And often, new staff assigned to the ward don pink scrubs — babies like the color — with little or zero previous labor and delivery experience, Myers said.

This is Noelle’s main purpose — to get newcomers acclimated to the rigors of labor and delivery, plus sharpen skills for those with experience.

Noelle allows them to practice all the possibilities, he said.

“People watch ‘Baby Story’ and think that labor is this calm, peaceful experience. But it’s not. It can be very stressful,” Myers said. “So many things can go wrong.”

Besides, it gives staff something to do while they wait for babies to be born, said Corpsman Nicholas Ullrich. At Yokosuka, births tend to come in waves, he said.

“We might have two or three births one week, then get slammed the next week,” Ullrich said. “So it’s important to keep our skills up and be on guard at all times.”

Training starts when Myers types up a scenario in the computer, and away it goes. The staff can feel the simulated heartbeats through the “skin” and palpitations through the “belly.”

Monitors beep and track both mother and fetus. When it’s delivery time, a motor pushes the baby out. Another, larger plastic newborn is used to practice neonatal resuscitation.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Theodore Hinunangan, who has a few months of experience in the delivery room, practiced with Noelle on Thursday.

“It’s the closest you can get to the real thing,” he said.


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