By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, email@example.com
This is not how Hanna Dickison imagined the birth of her first child.
The Danville woman and her husband, Matthew, expected their little boy on May 10, right around Mother’s Day.
Instead, Winston Douglas Dickison entered the world March 3, 10 weeks premature and weighing 3 pounds, 14 ounces.
Lucky for him and his parents, he was born in the new Maternity Tower at Riley Children’s Health, where both he and his mom could get the specialized care they needed.
Hanna’s pregnancy was proceeding uneventfully until a visit with her obstetrician, Dr. Edmund Gomez at IU Health West Hospital, where she intended to give birth.
“We absolutely never expected to be in this position,” Hanna said, recalling how she had gone for a routine OB visit March 2. Little did she know she would be giving birth the next day.
SIGNS OF PRE-ECLAMPSIA
Her doctor was already watching her blood pressure because it had been high. Then her blood work showed slightly elevated liver enzymes. When she saw Dr. Gomez on March 2 to get a follow-up blood draw, she told him she was having headaches.
Her symptoms were in line with a serious pregnancy complication called pre-eclampsia, characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys. The condition can lead to serious, sometimes fatal consequences for mother and baby.
Dr. Gomez wasted no time in having Hanna admitted to the hospital for monitoring, and it was shortly after that when she was transferred to Riley, where the NICU would be better prepared to care for her baby if she ended up delivering early.
Her condition worsened after she arrived at Riley, so she had an emergency C-section almost before she knew what was happening.
It was a whirlwind of emotions for the young couple, who just a few days earlier had closed on the purchase of a new house. They figured they had plenty of time to pack and get settled before little Winston arrived.
Instead, family and friends are helping them pack, while they travel back and forth to Riley. As hard as it has been, Hanna said she is grateful to be at Riley.
“The care we’ve received has been phenomenal. I told my husband when we found out we were pregnant that if, God forbid, anything happened and our baby needed extra care, Riley was where I wanted him to be.”
That’s because when Hanna was a child, she was in a car accident and was LifeLined to Riley.
“I know how they treated me when I was terrified. That one visit was all it took for me to know that this is the place my kids have to go for anything serious.”
Still, she never thought she would be here right now.
Hanna remembers one glorious thing from the birth experience – the sound of her baby’s cry. It convinced her that Winston was a fighter.
She recovered at Riley for just under a week, and during that time it was comforting to know that her little boy was just one floor above her.
“It was extremely nice that I was able to have him close by so that through my recovery I could be rolled up to the NICU to see him,” she said. “I didn’t have to worry about my husband being at one hospital and taking pictures and that be the only way I could see him. That helped tremendously with the emotional aspect.”
RAISING THE ROOF
Two weeks after his birth, Winston is gaining weight and learning to regulate his body temperature. On Thursday, nurse Kiahna Shelton said her little patient was doing so well his care team was able to “pop the top” on his temperature- and humidity-controlled incubator.
“I’ve had him the past three days and got to watch him come down on his respiratory support,” she said. “Once they show they are controlling their own temperature and the box isn’t heating up as much, we can pop the top.
“He’s raising the roof already,” she laughed. “He’s super snuggly. He’s just little and perfect.”
Winston ditched his CPAP mask a few days ago and is doing well with a smaller amount of breathing support via a nasal canula. Once he is able to come off respiratory support, he’ll be ready to start trying out bottle feeds, rather than the tube feeds he currently receives.
As Hanna cuddles with her newborn, she talks about his Winnie the Pooh-themed room at home – currently a work in progress – and his feisty personality.
“I told my husband he’s going to be a handful,” she said with a smile. “He was always pulling his mask off and making the machines beep.”
LEARNING FROM EXPERTS
Being a first-time parent is scary enough, Hanna said, without this added stress, but she and Matthew also get the benefit of expert training in the care of their baby by Riley nurses and physicians like resident Dr. Anna Cole, who has been monitoring Winston’s progress.
“Everyone here is absolutely amazing, and the tower is beautiful,” Hanna said.
Still, she acknowledges it’s hard leaving the hospital without her baby, though she appreciates the extra space in his room and the pull-out sofa that makes it easy to stay overnight when she can.
“It’s nice when I can’t find the strength to get myself home to pack, I can just pull that out and sleep and have my pump and everything I need to be able to stay with him.”
“I have all the confidence in the world in his team, but at the end of the day, I’m still his mom so it’s scary to leave. But just the way the nurses talk to my husband and me when we’re there, the updates they give … they are constantly taking care of him and asking us what they can do for us to make us comfortable.
“I remind myself every time I’m leaving that they’ve got him, they’re good people, and they know what they’re doing.”
Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, firstname.lastname@example.org