June 19, 2012
On February 28th, at 2:51 AM, my son Aviv was born. He was delivered after only 25 weeks of pregnancy and weighed only a bit more than one pound. This was the beginning of a crazy 98 day roller-coaster ride that ended on a very happy note. Here’s a spoiler: Aviv is now back at home with us and he’s a happy, healthy and beautiful child.
Why am I posting this on The Outbrain Blog? Other than the fact that Outbrain has been amazingly supportive —when I Yammered that we were back at home, my post had more responses than any other post in our history, including any “revenue breaking” or “product release” post — Outbrain has also donated a few lines of code that could ultimately save lives.
When Aviv was born, he was the size of my palm. He couldn’t breathe and he was immediately put on life support and rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Before the doctor could explain the situation, he asked us to sign all sorts of release forms that allowed the hospital to perform many invasive procedures we didn’t really understand. Twenty-four hours later, after a few of these procedures were performed, the doctor was finally able to talk to us and explain everything that was going on. My memories of this experience are a blur, but two things registered with me: 1) This was the same doctor we saw 24 hours earlier (he explained that when a “micro-preemie” is checked-in, he doesn’t go home until things have been relatively stable for a few hours) and 2) The survival rate statistics for micro-preemies were pretty grim. Aviv had a 50% chance of survival. The two main causes of death are prematurity (well, duh) and infections.
After spending 98 days at the NICU, we realized that preventing an infection is a daunting task. Nurses have to wash their hands almost every minute. Any piece of equipment that touches anything has to be re-sanitized. So when they want to feed a baby using a new feeding tube, if when they open the tube it accidentally touches the incubator door, they have to dispose the tube. When they try to change a baby’s sheet, if it accidentally touches the computer monitor, which is next to the incubator, the sheet has to be sanitized again. They also had to police anyone around — parents, x-ray technicians, maintenance workers, etc. — and all in a very stressful environment. When one of the baby monitors is screaming because a baby stopped breathing (kind of normal at the NICU), everyone has to sanitize their hands before approaching — not a trivial task when every second counts.
A few weeks ago they put a sign on the door to the NICU that reads: “Dear Parents — if you know anything about computers, please let the nurse in charge know.” I volunteered and spoke to the Director of Neonatology about the sign. He explained that “days with no infection” is one of the most important key performance indicators for the NICU. He asked if I would be able to write a script that could count the number of days since the last infection and be reset with a click of a button. After speaking with him, we realized that they needed a bit more than they asked for (the opposite of what I usually see with clients…just kidding!) What they really needed was software that could track the three different forms of infections while also highlighting the total number of days since the last incident.
It wasn’t hard to find someone at Outbrain willing to spend a couple of hours on this project. We were able to quickly deliver a very simple solution for tracking a very big problem (You rock, Uriel!). The application has been installed at the hospital and it was recently mentioned during a conference about infection prevention. In addition, I was able to use my “staff picks budget” to promote awareness for the shortage of neonatologists in Israel (each Outbrain employee gets $300 a month to promote content of his/her choice).
Giving back to the community is one of Outbrain’s core principles. Our first dollar in revenue was shared with a charity organization. One percent of our founded equity is being donated to Tmura, The Israeli Public Service Venture Fund. We have donated traffic to help non-profits during disasters, provided food for families in need, helped save a few whales and Bluefin tunas and we have “Meatless Tuesdays” every week. We are blessed with the ability to amplify content and write beautiful code and I’m proud and thankful that we were able to use these abilities to help other premature babies end their journey in a place where they belong…home.
Amit Elisha is VP of Products at Outbrain.