Patient Stories

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Enhancing Care for High-Risk Infants and their Families
By NSMC Giving, 2012 Fall

When abdominal pain woke her from sleep one morning in August 2010, Andrea Sherman’s first thought was that she had eaten something bad. As a precaution, the first-time expectant mother from Danvers called her OB/GYN at North Shore Physicians Group, who suggested she pay a visit to the NSMC Birthplace. As Sherman prepared for what she hoped would be a routine check-up, her husband, Jonathan, packed a bag, just in case. 

That decision proved prescient. Less than 12 hours later, Sherman gave birth to a daughter, Paige, who arrived eight weeks early weighing 4 lbs., 6 oz. “I was shell-shocked,” Sherman recalls. “My pregnancy had been healthy and uneventful, so it never occurred to me that I could be in labor.”

Paige was immediately transferred to NSMC’s Special Care Nursery, located on the Salem Campus, where physicians and nurses worked to stabilize her, placing a central line through her umbilicus to provide fluids and nutrition and a tube in her nose for oxygen. The next days and weeks were full of ups and downs. In addition to requiring nutritional and respiratory support, Paige was restless and agitated. Three days after she was born, she developed pneumonia, a common but serious risk in babies born prematurely.

“The days after Paige was born were terrifying,” says Sherman. “We were heartbroken that this child we had brought into the world was suffering, and we would have done anything to make her feel better.” The Shermans are one of 1,100 families served each year by NSMC’s Special Care Nursery, which is the centerpiece of the hospital’s neonatology program

“Infants in the Special Care Nursery are some of our most fragile and vulnerable patients,” says Sanjay Aurora, M.D., Chief of Newborn Medicine. “In addition to immediate health needs, these babies face potential long-term complications such as respiratory disorders, blindness, and learning disabilities.

To better serve these patients, NSMC is planning an expansion and renovation of the Special Care Nursery, another step in the hospital’s ongoing enhancement of its inpatient experience. The planned first step is a doubling of the unit size to accommodate 12 high-risk infants and creating a more spacious, private and peaceful environment for babies and their families.

“Our current facilities allow very limited space between babies,” notes Dr. Aurora. “Despite the high satisfaction scores we receive from families, one thing we hear over and over is that they wish we had more space. Our new facility will respond to these needs, including space to allow some mothers to sleep at their baby’s bedside.”

The renovated nursery also will include a waiting room for families and additional space for physician-family consultation, formula and breast feeding or patient education. Enhanced lighting and sound control will add to a more calming environment. A centralized bedside monitoring system and a pneumatic tube station will facilitate faster and more accurate delivery of care.

“A premature birth is an emotionally difficult time for families,” says NSMC neonatal nurse Suzanne Nevins, R.N. “The proposed changes to the Special Care Nursery will help us alleviate some of that stress and smooth the transition from hospital to home.” Two years after Paige’s birth, life for the Shermans is “blessedly chaotic.” Paige is an active toddler who enjoys dancing, coloring and planting kisses on her new sister, Brynn, who was born at NSMC Salem Hospital this past July—a week after her due date.

“Looking back, Paige’s birth was the happiest saddest time of my life,” says Sherman. “It wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, but thanks to the expert and loving care we received at NSMC it turned out beautifully.”

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