“Our Cups Runneth Over.” A mother’s story: from NICU to Kindergarten

The following story was written by Erin Furlong, a mother and Labor and Delivery Nurse at Metropolitan Methodist Hospital, a campus of Methodist Hospital.


My name is Erin and I have been a Labor & Delivery nurse at Metropolitan Methodist Hospital for almost 10 years. I have grown there as a nurse since I graduated nursing school and I have also grown as a mother to 3 beautiful children. My husband, Cody and I had our first son in January 2006, born full term with only complications being gestational diabetes and mild pregnancy induced hypertension. We got to take him home with us as we left the hospital 2 days after his birth.

When we decided it was time to grow our family and have one more to complete us, we tried but weren’t able to conceive easily this time. We underwent testing and after a year of trying and finally using Clomid, we finally got the news we waited for for so long, I was pregnant!!!

Then as life throws us curve balls, we found out it was TWINS!!! We were in total shock. We planned for 2 kids not THREE!! :) Being a Labor & Delivery nurse, I knew that twins alone made the pregnancy high risk. I walked around in a daze of some sort until we got the news at about 22 weeks that my cervix was shortening, an early indicator of possible preterm delivery. At that moment is when the daze ended and we became terrified…terrified we may lose these 2 miracle babies! I was put on bedrest at that time. And at 24 weeks, I was hospitalized for contractions and continued shortening of my cervix. After one night at Metropolitan, I was transferred to Main Methodist due to contractions and the gestation of the babies. If I were to deliver soon, they would likely need surgery, which is why I was transferred for the surgical capabilities Methodist Hospital NICU had that Metropolitan Methodist Hospital didn’t. I stayed in Antepartum at Methodist Hospital for 4 weeks with a couple scares during those 4 weeks, especially at 27.2 weeks, when I was taken to Labor & Delivery because I was told I would most likely be in labor that couldn’t be stopped. With a million prayers and amazing doctors that had the tools, medications and care required, the contractions and labor were stopped.

At 28 weeks, when I met criteria for Metropolitan Methodist Hospital’s NICU to care for them if delivered, I made the decision to be transferred back. Metropolitan Methodist is my home away from home and I wanted to be able to deliver there. At 28 weeks and 6 days, my usual contractions started to increase and become more intense. I was checked and was told I was 4 cm/ 100% effaced and that now my always head down baby boy A was breech. I was prepared for a cesarean section right away on June 21, 2009, Father’s Day that year, and delivered Jackson Wade at 12:59 am and Makenna Brooks at 1:00 am. Jackson weighed 2 lbs 11 oz and was 15.25 inches long. Makenna weighed 2 lbs 10 oz and was 15.5 inches long. I don’t remember a lot of the time in the OR, only certain things stand out. I could see a team of people around each warmer taking care of our babies, our babies that were so small and so fragile. I didn’t hear much of crying. They were both intubated. They tried to show them to me before quickly heading to the NICU but it was so hard to see them with all the blankets and special wrapping they needed for warmth.  My heart was so heavy. I felt helpless at they took them away and I couldn’t go with them obviously. I knew they were in great hands but my heart ached.

They spent several weeks in the NICU, Jackson 10 weeks, and Makenna 11 weeks. They were intubated for a couple of days to assist with breathing. They had all kinds of IV’s, lines, tubing, monitors. It was so hard to see them underneath it all. They both required dopamine drips for a while. Throughout their stay, they were routinely tested for infection, anemia, blood gas levels, brain bleeds, chest x-rays. They both had PDA’s, and were treated both with 2 rounds of Indocin. Jackson’s resolved. Makenna’s resolved to stable point but when she was about 18 months old, she had outpatient surgery for a heart cath to correct her PDA. While in the NICU, they both became anemic and were given 2 blood transfusions each. Knowing this was a possibility, we were able to have family donate  perblood and they were each given blood from our personal donors. We will never know exactly whose blood it was, which we actually prefer, because in such a helpless situation where family can’t even see the babies, it brought a sense of feeling that maybe that person’s blood helped in the long process of saving Jackson & Makenna.  They both had a lot of problems with bradycardia and desats, were on CPAP, nasal cannula, etc.  They each were treated for jaundice. They both had bad reflux. I got to hold Makenna for the first time when she was 5 days old. We held Jackson a few days later.  That was such a landmark for us in their long journey. There were so many ups and downs and when sitting next to one of your babies who needs to be touched to help them remember to breathe and bring their heart rate back l up, you just feel so overwhelmed. And when your other baby who about 10 feet away has the same episode, it brings a moment of “OH MY GOD please pray for them” how do you choose which one to tend to first?? Those days on bedrest and especially the weeks in the NICU were beyond overwhelming, scary, stressful, so many words come to mind. I kept a journal and wrote in it every single day they were in the NICU. It helped me keep all the information given organized and know each baby from the other as you’re told so many things, things that no parent wants to hear, things you never thought yourself would hear. We were beyond blessed and lucky to be able to bring them home, only on heart monitors and a couple special medications which in time were discontinued. They’ve seen specialists for their eyes, heart, development and they are PERFECT. They are now 5 years old in Kindergarten this year and could not be any healthier. It’s hard for me to look at the pictures from where they started, but looking at pictures of where they are now is AMAZING and truly makes my heart happy and feel so beyond blessed they had the care they did. If it weren’t for that care in the NICU and while I was pregnant, they may not be here today and they may have not been as AMAZING as they are today. Makenna is a sweet, little bit shy, helpful, smart, and caring little girl. Jackson is full of life, funny, affectionate, and playful, smart little boy. The family of 4 we always wanted is now the happy, healthy family of 5 that we wouldn’t change for anything!!!! The love we have for our kids is just unexplainable. “Our cups runneth over.”

Furlong TwinsWritten by Erin Furlong, Mother and Labor and Delivery Nurse

Metropolitan Methodist Hospital, a campus of Methodist Hospital

(Photo of Jackson and Makenna)

Having a Blue Christmas? Don’t Let Holidays Stress You

Christmas%20shopping[1]We generally think of the holidays as a time of joy, good cheer, family gatherings, and optimistic hopes. People share gifts, food, song and each other’s company. It is not unusual however, for many individuals to experience the holidays as a time of self-evaluation, loneliness, reflection on past failures, anxiety about the future, or overwhelmed by holiday expectations. Factors contributing to holiday blues include increased stress and fatigue, unrealistic expectations, too much commercialization, or the inability to be with one’s family. Increased demands of shopping, parties, family gatherings and guests may contribute to increased tension and sadness. Symptoms of holiday blues may mimic clinical depression. While these feelings may be intense and overwhelming, holiday blues are usually short lived and subside after the holiday season is over and daily routines are resumed.

Please remember these important things:

  • It’s a normal response to a stressful time of the year
  • You do not have to suffer unnecessarily
  • Find someone to talk with who can help you through this difficult time – a family member, a friend, a member of the clergy or a physician or professional counselor.

Here are some suggestions to help make the holidays more enjoyable and less stressful:

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: 10 Ways to Cope with Holiday Blues

  • Form Realistic Expectations: Plan holiday activities you most enjoy. Eliminate activities you least enjoy. Don’t try to make this the perfect holiday for yourself or for your family. There’s no such thing.
  • Prioritize: Make a list of what must be done and what would be a nice addition. There is a big difference between “I do it” and “it gets done.” Ask for help. Share shopping, cooking and cleaning responsibilities with others. Remember exhaustion and bankruptcy are not holiday options.
  • Practice Moderation: You can’t do everything, but you can do and enjoy the most important things. Don’t try to do it all. Save something for next year. The holidays are a time when it is easy to overindulge in what we eat, drink, and spend. More is not necessarily better. Keep your holiday simple.
  • Preserve Meaningful Traditions: Remember what this holiday season represents. Preserve and start new holiday traditions that build connections among your family and friends. Traditions are an important way to reinforce values and spiritual experiences. Take time to enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
  • Take Care of Yourself: Get enough sleep and exercise, eat and drink sensibly, make connections with friends and family and gather support. Take time to rest and recuperate. Your body will truly appreciate these gifts to yourself. Do not compare yourself to others. Do what is in your heart and within your budget and timeline to do. No one can make any real conclusions about a gift-giver’s character or level of caring based on how big a gift is or how much it cost.
  • Finally, make some fun plans for January when the post-holiday blues may set in.

SEEKING PROFESSIONAL HELP

For emergency psychiatric or chemical dependency services please call 911 or go to any one of the nine Methodist Healthcare EMERGENCY ROOMS. For non-emergency psychiatric or chemical dependency assessments please call 210-575-0500.

An extensive scope of behavioral medicine is just one more reason Methodist Healthcare is the most trusted health care leader in San Antonio and South Texas.

This blog is brought to you by

Methodist Healthcare Department of Psychiatry.

Methodist Hospital’s Very Important “VIP” Program

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VIP: Very Immunocompromised Patient. 

None one wants to go to the Emergency Room. The fact is, though, thousands upon thousands of people visit the ER every year. Patients come to us for treatment of the flu, broken bones, “tummy aches” and much, much more. We want you to feel safe and confident that you will receive the care you need.

But, what happens when treatment for a patient’s existing medical condition, such as chemotherapy or bone marrow transplant, causes the Emergency Room to be potentially less safe? Chemotherapy patients and bone marrow transplant patients have very low blood counts and are at a higher than normal risk of developing infections.  Conditions that bring others into the ER can be life threatening to these patients. Where do these patients go when they have an emergency? The answer: they still come to the Emergency Room at Methodist Hospital. In 2012, Methodist Hospital implemented the VIP (Very Immunocompromised Patient) Program to tend to the unique needs of our high-risk patients.

VIP cardWhat is the VIP Program? Simply put, we developed a Protocol that helps ER staff and physicians identify VIP patients allowing them to be seen and treated more quickly. This reduces the time these patients spend in the waiting room and allows rapid administration of antibiotics. The multidisciplinary team that developed and implemented the VIP Program created an identification card for patients called the “VIP Card.” The card includes the name and contact information of the patient’s treating physician so our ER physician can easily update them about the patient’s status. The VIP card is one component in what ultimately became the VIP Kit, which also includes a thermometer and hand sanitizer. VIP patients receive their kit from their physicians and are asked to present their VIP Card at the ER as soon as they arrive. If patients do not have their VIP Card or if they lose their VIP Card, they are instructed to tell ER staff that they are an oncology patient with a fever, which will also alert ER staff to the patients’ sensitive VIP status.

The VIP Program has resulted in success for a number of stakeholders. Physicians, ER nurses, oncologists and transplant physicians have found the program to be highly effective and very successful. Most important, patients and families are very satisfied with the VIP Program because it provides them with a level of assurance about what to do and where they can be connected to appropriate care in case of an emergency. The VIP Program has changed the behavior, culture and thought process behind how we treat our VIP patients. Methodist Hospital’s VIP Program received a 2013 ACCC Innovator Award. Sponsored by GE Healthcare, ACCC’s Innovator Awards recognize and honor exceptional cancer programs that exhibit forward-thinking strategic planning and have developed pioneering, replicable programs.

If you or a loved one has recently undergone chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant, talk to your physician about Methodist Hospital’s VIP Program. For a more detailed look at Methodist Healthcare Cancer Network, a Sarah Cannon Partner, visit www.MethodistCancerServices.com.

Surviving the Holidays – Tips from a Dietitian

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Holiday Feast photo credit: flickr by ChatChowTV

Holiday Feast photo credit: flickr by ChatChowTV

Hello, All!

*deep breath*  Here we go…the Holidays.  Did you know that the average person puts on SEVEN pounds between Halloween and New Years?  There are so many things stacked up against us during this season.

First, there’s temptation.  Let’s face it, during the holidays, that little red guy that hangs out over our shoulder wins out almost every time, am I right?  At parties (oh the parties!), we submit to consuming waaay more food and booze than we ever would under non-festive conditions.  Plus, holiday foods = comfort foods = mega calories.  There’s candy everywhere you turn – at home, the office, the post office, the bank, in your kid’s pocket…And holiday marketing is just cruel (anybody want a Hershey’s Kiss or twelve?).

Also, we tend to be less active due to the discomfort from overeating, the cooler/rainier weather, and the emotional drain that the holidays have on us.  Incidentally, our altered emotional states – stressed, depressed, fatigued – often impel us to eat more as well.  Double whammy.

So, how do we navigate through this season without becoming part of the statistic?  Well…first and foremost, plan ahead. 

1)      Always keep a healthy snack on hand – a cereal bar, almonds, yogurt – for when temptation strikes.

2)      Choose your parties.  If you’re worried that you’ll have a hard time resisting temptation, limit your opportunities to be tempted!

3)      For the parties that you do choose to attend:

a.       Eat before you go.  Remember, fiber and protein will hold you over the longest.

b.      Bring a nutritious dish to share.  Salads and veggie trays are always a good idea.  Or, bring a healthier version of some of your favorites.  I’ve attached my recipe Roasted Sweet Potato Medallions with Apple-Cranberry Relish which makes a great substitute for the high-calorie, butter-laden, marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole.  And, it can serve as a finger food at parties!

c.       Set limitations for yourself, and be specific.  For instance, I will fill half of my plate with vegetables.  I will not sample every dessert on the table; only the _____ (insert favorite treat here).

d.      Be prepared to say “NO!”  When coming up with a game plan, we tend to assume that we will only have to stand up to ourselves when faced with temptation.  However, well-meaning friends and family can be the biggest threat to our will power. If you’re comfortable with it, let your loved ones know what your plans are ahead of time. Then, visualize someone offering you one of your limitations and practice saying “no thank you.”  If they care, they’ll understand.

At the holiday gathering:

1)      Don’t mingle by the food!

2)      Fill up on fruits, veggies, lean meats, nuts and crackers.  And watch the dip intake!

3)      Be mindful of your alcohol consumption.

a.       Alcohol adds empty calories!  Stick to clear liquor/club soda, light beer and non-sweet wine.

b.      Alcohol lowers your inhibitions → Plans go out the window!

c.       Drink before your meal or during; not both.

d.      When mingling, keep a club soda in hand.  Hosts won’t offer refills, and it’s much harder to eat when you’re already holding something.

4)      Skip foods that you can eat throughout the year, i.e. mashed potatoes, rolls, etc.

5)      Cut back portions.  Just a taste will often do the trick!

6)      Don’t deprive yourself!  If you don’t allow yourself any treats, you’re more likely to splurge the next chance you get.

Bonus Tips:

1)      Avoid temptation.  Don’t bring things home with you (leftovers, candy, etc.)!

2)      Be realistic about your goals.  You may be setting yourself up for failure if you expect to lose weight this season.  Look at your social obligations and evaluate the reasonability of your goals.

3)      Weigh yourself weekly for a reality check!

4)      Remind yourself:  Dieting is NO fun!  It’s much harder to undo damage than to prevent.

5)      Forgive yourself and move on.  If you do find yourself overindulging, avoid the tailspin of a defeatist mentality.  Yes, you broke your plans.  This does not make you a bad eater!  If you had one bad meal/day, be “good” for the next four and you’ll be on track 80% of the time!  (Doesn’t that sound nicer than “I blew it?”)

Happiest of Holidays to you all!

Molly Seys, RD, LD
Clinical Registered Dietitian
Methodist Texsan Hospital

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