Oh no  --  Another orange baby!


Like both of her sisters before her, Liliana became rather jaundiced as a result of an ABO blood-type incompatibility between her and her mother, causing a condition known as ABO hemolytic disease of the newborn, or ABO HDN.

After our first girl, Miriana, was born, she had to go back into the hospital for phototherapy, her condition became so serious that they were threatening to transfer her to Portland for a blood transfusion.  Poor Michele had to sit in the nursery with her (and all the other babies and their visitors) for two days, because they wouldn't give her a room -- or even a cot; she had to try to sleep sitting up.  It wasn't fun at all.  This time, it would be even more miserable for everyone involved, because we now have 4 other children rather than just one, and because Michele had a terrible cold, so she wouldn't even be allowed in the nursery, and we'd have to turn poor Liliana over to the hospital staff, and they'd have to try to bottle-feed her.  

I decided there was a better way.  After many hours of research we felt we had a comfortable grasp on the condition and the various styles of light treatment that are popularly used, and we decided to try the "do it yourself" approach.

The ideal light used for phototherapy will have an emission spectrum that more or less corresponds with the absorption spectrum of the bilirubin compounds you are trying to help break down (That's slightly simplistic, but it will do); most of the energy emmited by the light is targeted at the problem, not just making the room bright.  

Lacking the "Special Blue" (Philips color code BB) fluorescent tubes popularly used by hospitals, affectionately referred to as "Bili Lights" -- and since she wasn't very bad yet -- we decided to throw what we had at her to try to help ward off a serious problem.

If you don't have a rifle, use a shotgun: full spectrum lamps.  They're not all blue, but at least they emit some blue!  This is like the time-honored practice of laying your baby out in the sun, except that they don't get a sunburn.

We pulled the desk lamps off of our piano & organ, and fitted one with the only daylight tubes we had; the other fixture had a pair of cool-whites in it.  This wasn't exactly ideal,
but was better than the plant- and warm-white tubes that were in there before...

Here's a picture of Liliana under her first set of lamps:


By the end of the day Sunday, there was no improvement -- in fact she was worse.  First thing Monday morning, I was on the phone.  I called all over the Portland area before finally finding someone with 6 tubes in stock.  I immediately drove down and picked them up, then stopped by Home Depot for a trio of utility light fixtures.  Jeepers, 2' fluorescents are expensive!  Anything smaller than the standard 4' is ridiculously priced.  All together, I spent $200 on the project, but it was well worth it.

I got home and spent the next several hours assembling the light fixtures, mounting them on a board, and wiring them.  As soon as they were finished, we placed the contraption in our bedroom on top of a pair of large plastic tubs with encyclopedias stacked on top to adjust the height.  Underneath was another plastic tub to serve as the "baby tray", that we could slide in and out.  Here's what it looked like:


Meanwhile, Michele manufactured an eye shield from the leg of a worn-out pair of pants and a piece of Velcro.  Liliana was stripped to her diaper, and that's where she spent the rest of the day, as well as the night.

Here you can see Liliana basking under "The Real McCoy".  The scene looks like something out of "E.T.", doesn't it?


It was pretty strange sleeping in a room filled with an eerie blue glow.  120 watts of fluorescents put out a lot of light, even if it is all blue! It's painful to look at them directly.  Between the blue glow, and the little noises
that Liliana made throughout the night, it really felt like I was trying to sleep through some science fiction movie.

By the end of the next day, she was looking 100% better, and was eliminating large amounts of junk from her system, as evidenced by the plentiful green excrement.  Here you can see her with a little bit of an orange "mask" where the eye shield covered her face, but the rest of her body is looking much more normal.


Over the next few days we placed her under the lamps during her naps, but let her (and us) sleep in the dark.  This maintained her improvement without overdoing it (we didn't want the poor thing to dry up like a prune!), and allowed us to get some much-needed rest.  

Having the lights made all the difference in the world.  Had I not been able to obtain them that day, we would have had to admit her to the hospital to start treatment soon enough to prevent brain damage.  I am so grateful that I was able to find those!

Since our apparatus doesn't quite look the same as the bili lights that the hospital uses (and I'm sure cost much less than 1/10th the price), and it was assembled by simple folk who live on a hill, I'm afraid we have no choice but to call them:
Hill-bili Lights!

Here's another view of the light assembly:


...and a closeup of the tubes.  Thanks to Kay at SunLan Lighting in Portland for keeping a few on hand!


Naturally, you should consult a competent medical professional (just like the bulbs say) before attempting such treatment.
I am neither a lawyer, nor a doctor, and this page is here to share a story, not give any kind of professional advice.
Don't try this at home, kids.
yada, yada, yada...

back to birth announcement