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Special Care For a Special Newborn

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High Risk, High Reward
Special Care For a Special Newborn

Shelby Rae Chrisman was born at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital on Jan. 4, 2011, weighing 3 pounds, 9 ounces. She arrived four weeks early for her parents, Tracy and Jason Chrisman, and was not quite ready to thrive on her own. The tiny newborn spent five weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital before she was ready to go home.

Tracy and Jason Chrisman chose Methodist Willowbrook Hospital because of the high level of confidence they had in Tracy's physician, Dr. Christoper McGuirk, and word-of-mouth recommendations from friends who had delivered babies here.

Tracy's pregnancy was considered high risk because she had gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and signs of preeclampsia. At 33 weeks gestation, she was admitted to the hospital and put on strict bed rest for two weeks.

"My doctor was very open, answering every question and concern and explaining why being in the hospital was important for my health and my baby's health," Tracy recalls. "We learned to take it one day at a time and one week at a time."

The couple spent Christmas and New Year's in the hospital, while Tracy's condition continued to be closely monitored by her physician and the specially trained nurses. Despite all the worry and concern, their family and friends along with the Methodist Willowbrook staff helped to make the holidays merry with decorations, treats and even apple cider for toasting the New Year.

On Jan. 4, the baby's heart rate started dropping (a sign of fetal distress), so Tracy underwent an emergency C-section delivery. "Jason and I were worried because we knew the baby would be premature, but we had complete trust in the doctors and the staff," Tracy says.

"The NICU nurses were a wonderful support to us. They answered all of our questions and gave us lots of hugs, which we needed!"
– Tracy Chrisman

Not knowing what was going to happen was the scariest part for Tracy and Jason. "After the doctor delivered Shelby, it was quiet and I started praying," Tracy remembers. "After a few moments Dr. McGuirk said, 'Do you hear the baby crying in the next room?' A huge relief came over me at that moment because I knew our baby was going to be fine and was in good hands with the doctors and nurses at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital."

Shelby stayed in an incubator for the first three weeks of life, which Tracy and Jason liked to call Shelby's "cabana." In the first few days, the parents could only touch Shelby with a finger. They were eventually allowed to hold her for 20 minutes at a time. The NICU doctors explained that Shelby would burn extra calories trying to keep warm if she was moved from her incubator, and this was a critical time for Shelby to grow.

Shelby was fed through a tube in her nose at first, and eventually they were able to practice feeding her with a bottle. "Shelby was tiny in size but perfect in health otherwise," Tracy explains. "The doctors told us she would be ready to go home as soon as she could feed well with a bottle. We had to be patient, because it took her five weeks to learn to suck, swallow and breathe for successful bottle feedings."

Tracy's life was in the NICU with little Shelby 24/7 those first five weeks, and she describes the trip home as surreal. "Jason was so excited when we were finally carrying her out in the car seat – I had to ask him to slow down because I couldn't keep up!" Tracy says.

Now at 1 year old and weighing more than 17 pounds, Shelby has grown to nearly five times her birth weight, and she is a healthy and happy baby.

Parents have peace of mind knowing that Methodist Willowbrook Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is here should they need it.

The NICU cares for premature infants and other infants needing specialized care.

These specialized services include 24/7 coverage by Texas Children's Hospital neonatologists and neonatal nurse practitioners, who have been specially trained in neonatal care. The neonatal services department allows for mothers to stay with their babies in most instances, which allows for critical bonding for a new family.

Women with pre-existing medical conditions and/or health problems that develop during pregnancy may benefit from a consultation with a Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist.

A mother-to-be may have pre-existing conditions, such as multiple births, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney or gastrointestinal disease, or an infectious disease. All of these conditions may increase risks for the mother and/or her baby.

Healthy women whose pregnancies are at increased risk for problems are also candidates for consultation with a Maternal- Fetal Medicine specialist. These include women who:

  • Had an abnormal alpha fetoprotein, or AFP; blood test (a standard prenatal screening test that can help identify spina bifida; anencephaly and chromosomal problems).
  • Are carrying twins, triplets or more babies during a pregnancy.
  • Had pre-term labor and an early delivery in the past.
  • Experienced premature rupture of membranes.
  • Experienced multiple previous miscarriages.

Health problems that may develop during pregnancy and require close monitoring by a doctor:

  • Preeclampsia – a serious condition that includes high blood pressure, urinary protein and changes in blood levels of liver enzymes. It can affect the mother's kidneys, liver and brain.
  • Gestational diabetes – a form of diabetes that only pregnant women get. Gestational diabetes can cause the baby to grow too large, causing problems during delivery. Also, the baby may have breathing problems or low blood sugar.
  • HIV/AIDS – a virus that kills or damages cells of the body's immune system, destroying the body's ability to fight infections and certain cancers. Mothers with HIV may pass the virus to their babies. There are effective ways of preventing this transmission.
  • Preterm labor – a condition that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Women with certain infections, a shortened cervix or previous pre-term birth are at higher risk for pre-term labor.

Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialists at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital focus on the medical and surgical management of high-risk pregnancies. These experienced specialists offer consultation on the management of complex pregnancies. Your OB/Gyn may suggest that you see an MFM during your pregnancy.

To find a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist or an OB/Gyn at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, call physician referral at 281-737-2500.