Delivering the Goods
Just one year ago, we took our first anxious steps into parenthood. The following piece was written at that time, commissioned by a local real estate website that was looking to get a personal profile of Wilmington’s new baby hospital. The website went under, leaving this article a homeless orphan playing with matches in a ditch. So for Foster’s 1st birthday, let’s go back in time to relive his grand entrance. Happy birthday, buddy! You’ve come a long way!
Carrie is pregnant. Very pregnant. My wife has journeyed far beyond the baby bump stage when strangers would pat her stomach with shameless adoration. Now she’s feeling large and immobile, ready to be done with it, a little anxious and impatient after nine long months. Those same strangers now give her a wide berth, expecting her water to break at any moment. The bags are packed, we have our guidebooks, the paid time off is safely stashed. It’s like we’re loaded up and ready for vacation but our son won’t come out of his room. Meanwhile, across town sits our destination. Wilmington’s brand new Betty H. Cameron Women’s and Children’s Hospital is our Disneyworld.
The Women’s and Children’s Hospital is the stunning new addition to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, the hub of our local healthcare system. Over the years the hospital has seen structural growth, technological advances, and a diversification in services, but it’s arguable that these components have been simultaneously augmented like this before. The new facility will revolutionize how women and children receive care in Wilmington for years to come. Groundbreaking on the 195,000 square foot hospital began Jan.19, 2006 and it received its first patients Sept. 14, 2008. An estimated 4,000 children are born at NHRMC each year. With this opening, each one will receive treatment in a state of the art facility that is worthy of its superb medical staff.
Clearly, the staff is excited about their new workspace. Jane McLean, Clinical Coordinator for Labor and Delivery and Obstetrics Coordinator for the Operating Room, highlights the upgrade. “The large, private rooms are more accommodating for families and their guests. There are hydrotherapy tubs that can be moved from room to room. There are also multi-head showers, which are great tools in early labor to manage contraction pain. We’ve tried to make things easier for the mother, while encouraging them to get out of bed and move around.” Accessibility to staff is another key component to the mission of the new hospital. McLean continues, “Our systems are now decentralized. There are charting stations throughout the unit so we can stay close to our patients. We used to have a call bell but now it goes through a computer and to the mobile phone of the assigned nurse. It’s quicker for the patient to have their needs met.”
Meanwhile back home, Carrie is now in the throes of early labor. It has been going on for two days and her contractions are getting stronger and closer together. All of our instincts and Lamaze handouts are telling us to go to the hospital. So we gather our luggage and laptops and massage tools and a giant red fitness ball and pile into the wagon like a Cirque du Soleil troupe, heading off towards 17th Street to have our baby.
We arrive at the front desk and explain our urgent business. We are sent to the Perinatal Evaluation Center for assessment. Once inside the facility, I am struck by the calm and quiet. I was expecting an asylum of moaning, birthing women. It is so quiet I start to wonder if the entire wing is still closed to the public. When we are taken to a private room and Carrie is examined, we learn that she has dilated one centimeter and has a paper-thin cervix but is still possibly a day or two away from delivery. It is too early in the process to admit us. We trudge back home to wait some more.
With a population of nearly 100,000 people, Wilmington is too large to rely on Durham and Winston-Salem and other state hospitals to take our sick and needy. The construction of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital gives families the chance to stay in town even when their loved ones are facing high-risk pregnancies and other medical complications. Barbara Buechler, Registered Nurse and Hospital Administrator, illustrates the importance of such services. “Our 45-bed, all private room Neonatal ICU is the only private room NICU in the state of North Carolina. Private room neonatal intensive care provides an environment that improves clinical and developmental outcomes for sick and premature infants. In addition, the sleep sofa in every room allows mom to stay with her baby during hospitalization. This provides the benefit of parent-infant bonding and parents feeling confident caring for their baby at discharge.” This December, the Betty H. Cameron Women’s and Children’s Hospital will open southeastern North Carolina’s only Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. As a result, emergency situations involving children can be handled close to home and Wilmington will continue to establish itself as a leader in state healthcare.
Back home again, Carrie and I jump at every gas bubble. We wonder if we’ll even know when it’s time. But then her water breaks and it is as dramatic and exciting as it seems in movies. We lock down the house, pile back into the car and leave knowing that when we return, it will be as a trio.
We are finally admitted and set up camp in our room on the Labor and Delivery ward. The room is immense and the sofa is soft. Our families come and go, taking full advantage of the visitation policy that allows the patient to decide who is admissible and how long they can stay. Carrie’s contractions are breathtaking and we take arduous walks around the maze of hallways in the hope that gravity and movement will conspire to push him out. It doesn’t happen. During the night it becomes clear that there is a problem. Her dilation stops at 6 centimeters. Excruciating contractions are not advancing him through the birth canal. Depending on her position in the bed, his heart rate nosedives and our entire team spends long hours frowning at monitors.
In the wee hours of a Monday morning, despite our hopes of having a natural childbirth free from interventions or undue pain management, Carrie ends up having a C-section. The umbilical cord had wrapped around our baby’s neck and prevented him from coming out on his own. This wasn’t our plan, but who can plan for a medical emergency? The wonderful part of our story is the strong, healthy son we eventually took home with us. Would it have been the same ending in a smaller, older, less-equipped facility? Perhaps, but it would have been a much darker road. Despite the gravity of the situation, we knew we were in able hands. The staff at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital was amazing and touched our experience with professionalism and warmth. The facility was the Disneyworld we were hoping it would be. Our son, Foster, will say thanks when he learns to talk.