Expertise, celebrations, and caring for the whole family mean so much in HCA’s NICUs

Every family’s NICU success story is a good one. And when the NICU family is one of our own HCA Healthcare colleagues, we have a whole new set of reasons to share some details. What follows is a blog by Adam Mindick of our Clinical Services Group on what he and his wife, Rebecca, experienced with the team at TriStar Summit Medical Center’s NICU after the premature birth of their son, Jace. As is the case in all 89 of HCA’s NICUs, this facility’s team was an important part of this couple’s first days as parents and Adam and Rebecca have much to say about their NICU experience, the excellent care Jace received, and the making of lifelong friends. Enjoy.

Introduction

Our first baby, Lincoln, was a still birth at 33 weeks. After only 11 months we had our second child, Jace, born via emergency c-section at 29 weeks and two days. Jace began his life, and we began our first days as parents, with a 52-day stay in the NICU. Through that experience, I’ve learned that without prayer, patience, and the dedicated team of NICU nurses, we wouldn’t be where we are today – home.

TriStar Summit nurses know just what to do when you are sad, frustrated, worried and so overwhelmed that you can’t think straight. I’ve experienced each of those feelings right in front of the nurses. Whether the situation called for soothing words, a story about a past successful experience, hard honest truths or a hug, the nurses knew exactly how to handle it.  My wife, who spent hours every day sitting by Jace’s “bed,” saw all of his ups and downs in real time, and was treated like a best friend or daughter by the nurses who cared for my son. For every time I told them thank you, it never felt like enough. It still doesn’t.

Nurses know how to set expectations. Obviously the goal is to take your healthy baby home – but they know what that entails. When days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months, parents learn to focus on the small things. We wrote down every gram gained, every milliliter tube fed and eventually bottle fed, every apnea episode, among other things. Learning the requirements to take your baby home and then try to reach those milestones becomes an obsession. The nurses are there to hold your hand when the roller coaster that has become your life takes a downward turn. One nurse was known to say “we don’t have any kindergartners here,” meaning, when the baby is ready, they all go home.

NICU nurses do little things to treat a tiny, struggling newborn with dignity, personal attention and the kindest, gentlest, most knowledgeable care imaginable. They decorate NICU beds to look and feel like a little boy’s room instead of scary hospital quarters. The curtains (blanket hanging over the isolette) had to match the bedspread and sheets, not to mention his outfit! They reset tape if it looks uncomfortable. They prop limbs and straighten caps all while monitoring the thousands of details pertinent to the little one’s care. The nurses advised us on how to bring our love into Jace’s isolette. A black and white picture of us, digital recordings of stories my wife read so he could hear her voice, little fabric hearts (sewn by grandma) kept close to our bodies and then put under his head so he could smell us when we weren’t there. All things we wouldn’t have known to do without the nurses’ loving guidance.

Nurses are great at celebrating milestones. They have seen so many newborns face and push through these milestones and still celebrate each one because it’s THIS baby’s first time to reach that goal. They are so elated….like text you in the middle of the night to tell you how well he did during his bath kind of elated…or saving his first-ever completely finished bottle for mom and dad to take home and treasure. The nurses were our biggest cheerleaders, basking in every tiny milestone that Jace hit and supporting us as parents along the way. They cheered us on while we changed our first dirty diaper, learned to take his temperature, held our son for the first time and supported the sleepless/endless endeavor that is pumping milk so Jace could have the best food possible. No task was deemed unimportant, and it made us feel like parents instead of onlookers in our son’s care.

Nurses cannot be thanked enough for what they do. My wife and I brought flowers to celebrate nurses week; we eagerly respond to their texts asking how he’s doing at home; we stop by the NICU to show them our whopping 9 pound, three-month old thriving baby boy (a far cry from his early 2 lb. 6 ounce days); and we bring pictures for their unit’s bulletin board. We know the feeling of not bringing your expected baby home, and we truly feel that these nurses saved us from another devastating loss. The nurses say that seeing babies go home to loving families is all the thanks they need. Being a nurse isn’t just a job for the nurses in TriStar Summit’s NICU, it is most certainly a calling – as evidenced by their compassionate, patient and loving care.

We wish the best for other NICU families and thankful that ours will not be the only story with a happy ending. Like other NICU families, my wife and I trusted TriStar Summit Regional Medical Center with something more important than our lives. We trusted them with Jace’s life, and we love them beyond words for all they have done for him and for us.

And only five weeks after Jace’s graduation from the NICU, we can start to make our plan for baby number three. We pray the NICU will not be a part of his or her story, but if it is, he or she will be in the best of hands with the NICU nurses at TriStar Summit Medical Center.

From Adam and Rebecca: We can’t begin to thank all the others involved in Jace’s care, but we’d be remiss not to mention the fabulous Dr. Carol McCullough, countless HCA co-workers, and TriStar Summit Medical Center for their support. HCA does great things every day, and Jace is proof.