By the first Friday morning at home Jason was showing definite signs of jaundice, so we quickly made an appointment with the pediatrician and had him checked out. The doc said Jason’s bilirubin levels were elevated, meaning I gather that excess red blood cells were breaking down in numbers too large for his system to flush out without help. We were issued a device called a “Wallaby” light therapy machine, more or less a projector that shines light through a hose down to a paddle-shaped panel. The panel goes directly against Jason’s bare back and provides the same beneficial effects he’d get from natural sunlight (except he won’t get a tan and there’s no heat).
After a few days on the machine, we got his levels back to where he could manage them without help. Still, it tugged at the heart to see him tethered to this contraption, with a one-inch hose sticking out from his blankets and a colorful glow shining through (we took to calling him our “little glow-worm”).
Apparently jaundice is a common problem for infants, one that used to be cleared up before they ever left the hospital, back in the days when mom and baby were kept there for a week or so. These days kids are sent home much earlier, and so it’s up to these medical supply companies to come door-to-door and hook them up to a machine at a cost of more than $100 a day. Another shining example of how America’s insurance industry is making the medical system more “efficient.”