Thousands of people from 60 countries watched a baby boy enter the world in Houston on Wednesday, tuning into a live Twitter feed broadcast by a Houston hospital that warned viewers the video images of doctors cutting into the abdomen and uterus could be graphic.
Houston's Memorial Hermann Hospital Memorial City took to Twitter on Wednesday in its most recent live broadcast, sharing a cesarean section delivery. The staff began Tweeting at 7 a.m. after promoting the online procedure for days.
Dr. Anne Gonzalez said it was the second pregnancy for the patient -- a 39-year-old mother who did not reveal her name for privacy reasons.
"She has had a very uncomplicated pregnancy and is a very easy-going patient and has done it before and was doing very well in her pregnancy, so I approached her two months ago in her pregnancy and thought about it and decided to go for it," Gonzalez said.
"It's fascinating to pull back the curtain on the mystery of the OR," said Natalie Camarata, the social media manager at Houston's Hermann Memorial Hospital who helped broadcast Wednesday's cesarean section as well as two other procedures, including a brain surgery done by Dr. Dong Kim, who gained notoriety when he treated former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head in 2011.
"They can see every piece ... these step-by-step processes that are something that happen every day," Camarata said, explaining why tens of thousands of people viewed the Twitter broadcasts. "It really demystifies it."
Through a variety of matrix that help track online activity, Camarata estimated that 72,000 watched the C-section live on Twitter, while an additional 11,000 viewed it in another format. The viewers were from 60 countries, she said, with the most followers coming from Germany, Norway and Israel.
During the procedure, viewers tweeted questions, and doctors or staff responded immediately. One viewer from Norway asked about the difference in how the umbilical cord is treated in a C-section compared with a natural delivery. Several tweeted congratulations to the parents. Many asked for the baby's name, though the hospital said it was not going to release that information to protect the identity of the mother who chose to remain anonymous. In the two hours the hospital was live, it gained more than 600 followers, dozens of them just in the first few minutes. Several noted the images were a bit gory, jokingly saying they wouldn't watch it over breakfast.
"I think it's really eye opening. We get questions every day about, 'What can I expect? What are the steps of it?' So I think this is a really educational tool to see what is going to happen to them," Gonzalez said.
A 6 pound, 3 ounce baby boy was successfully delivered. Mom, dad and big sister are doing well and enjoying the newest member of the family.
Previously, when Memorial Hermann live tweeted a brain surgery, more than 235,000 watched live, more than 280,000 viewed photos and video and the hospital gained 7,000 new followers. With each event, the hospital finds more and different people participating, Camarata said.
"When hospitals did it several years back, the online audience wasn't fully engaged," she said about social media experiments from seven and eight years ago. "Now people are living Twitter, living Facebook. It's part of their everyday life."