Kadi Martin warms her hands by rubbing them together before quietly opening the portholes to the isolette. Her hands are the color of peaches and her fingers, surprisingly long for her petite frame, slowly approaches the infant while she says good morning to her patient. A tiny wrinkly pea of a baby ever-so –slowly unfurls from its fabricated nest that s/he is snuggled in. “Okay sweet pea, it’s time to check your temperature”. The infant opens its eyes and stretches.
Kadi, a 25 year veteran of the NICU, has been working with infants and toddlers for most of her professional career. Her experience ranges from the newly born to toddlers. A graduate of the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Nursing, Kadi began her career in pediatric oncology. She worked at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for 2 years before returning to her hometown of Baltimore. She started her new job at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in January of 1987. Kadi became interested in massage as a form of relaxation for herself as well as for others. She took a class in relaxation massage and discovered that infant massage was practiced as well. She knew this would provide a great comfort to parents of NICU patients. Kadi, taught by Evelyn Guyer, became a certified infant massage instructor (CIMI) in 1994.
As she became more involved in her NICU role and realized that she really liked working with the family unit, Kadi enrolled in the Johns Hopkins University Early Childhood Education program. She graduated with her Master’s degree in 1999. While doing her internship for this program, Kadi was introduced to the Infants and Toddlers Program of Maryland. This federally mandated, state funded program provided her with a unique opportunity of working with families in the home setting. For the next 12 years Kadi worked part time for the Infants and Toddlers Program in roles as a teacher, nurse, and special educator. In this role she was able to incorporate her infant massage from hospital to home, thus ensuring the family bonding and attachment continues beyond the NICU.
One of Kadi’s mottos is ‘be the change and pay it forward”. As her dedication to infants and families has grown Kadi has created the developmental care committee in the NICU and continues to work with families on an individual basis teaching gentle touch massage. Family-centered, developmentally supportive care, in the NICU, individualizes the social-emotional, sensory, physical, and medical environments to address specific infant needs. She has raised money for developmental care workshops to educate staff on infant development and handling. She has created a ‘Developmental Care Week’ where the staff plays games as a form of education while having fun. Kadi also uses her knowledge and skills in orientation of new staff teaching them aspects of developmental care and the importance of positive touch in the NICU.
In a high tech world, touch is a precious commodity. No parent is expecting or wanting a baby in the NICU, but it does happen. Years ago physical contact with families was rare and not encouraged. It is very overwhelming to see your baby in a Plexiglas isolette, with a mesh of wires and cables attached to him/her. Parents today are afraid to touch their babies. Infant massage gives parents the power to be part of their baby’s care while in the hospital. Kadi likes to call then her ‘helping hands’ in the NICU. “They are there to be with their baby so I try to use that. They help with the baby’s vital signs and diapers changes, and since these small babies cannot come out to be held , I like to have them nest the baby in their hands and help them fall back to sleep.” Sometimes out of necessity, the nurse must inflict pain. But when that is done, again, the parents can comfort the baby. Infant massage impacts all aspects of NICU care from pain relief, calming techniques, and family bonding, to weight gain, deeper sleep, and shorter hospital stays.
Today, Kadi continues to work full time in the NICU. She completed her CIIT training with Andrea Kelly and she has volunteered to participate as a resource in the collaboration of disciplines working with Andrea Kelly to expand NICU class for the CIMI training. When not working, Kadi enjoys Tai Chi and walking, baking, and spending time with her family. Kadi’s greatest gift is her ability to connect with children. She is highly empathetic and fully commits herself to make a difference in their lives.