When Danielle W., 34, of Bethlehem, recalls the round ‘about path she took to deliver her baby with St. Luke’s Women’s Care OB/GYN and St. Luke’s Hospital, the saying “blessing in disguise” always comes to mind. Having her doctor and hospital choice taken from her during her pregnancy was disappointing, but Danielle believes that it was a combination of fate and tenacity that ensured that the St. Luke's obstetrics team would bring her baby boy into the world.
Bonnie Osterwald, MD was Danielle’s gynecologist from the start and delivered her first baby, so she was certain that Dr. Osterwald would deliver her second baby too. But by the time Danielle became pregnant with her second child, circumstances had changed.
Early in Danielle’s second pregnancy, Dr. Osterwald opened a new practice, St. Luke’s Women’s Care OB/GYN, part of St. Luke’s University Health Network. Great for Dr. Osterwald, but not so great for Danielle. Danielle and her family were covered by her husband’s health insurance and since he was a chiropractor with another health network, St. Luke’s doctors were not covered under their plan. But Dr. Osterwald and her partner, Suzanne Basha, MD, helped Danielle find a doctor and a practice who met all her requirements - a small practice with only a handful of doctors, someone who would support her goal of a vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) and, of course, someone covered by her insurance. Ticking off those boxes proved to be a difficult task. Frustrated with the search, Danielle even inquired about paying out of pocket to continue to see Dr. Osterwald, but the costs over the course of pregnancy and delivery would be exorbitant. Sadly, Danielle proceeded with her prenatal visits under another doctor’s care.
At about 12 weeks into her pregnancy, Danielle’s husband was let go from his job. As anyone with a growing family can attest, having no job and no health insurance can cause a ton of stress and anxiety. Danielle researched her options and came up with a solution that would ensure that she and her unborn child, as well as her toddler and husband would have health coverage. Danielle was still not with the doctor she wanted, but she would get the necessary prenatal care she needed so that would have to be enough.
Time passed and at about 34 weeks into her pregnancy, Danielle’s husband decided to open his own practice with health coverage that would include Dr. Osterwald and a delivery at St. Luke’s Hospital! After weeks spent stressing about who would deliver her baby and then feeling terrified at the idea of not having any health insurance, Danielle never stopped trying to get back to the doctor and hospital that she felt would give her baby the best possible start in life.
Danielle delivered her baby boy at St. Luke’s Allentown Campus. After everything she did to make sure she could have Dr. Osterwald deliver her baby, it just so happened that on the night she started having contractions, Jami Avellini, MD was on call and delivered her baby. “Initially I was nervous that Dr. Osterwald wasn’t with me for the delivery, but Dr. Avellini was amazing,” says Danielle. “And Dr. Osterwald was always in touch so I felt like she was there with me - she had confidence in the doctor on call, so I did too.”
“It was unfortunate that I couldn’t be there for the delivery, but Danielle knew that Dr. Avellini and Ob-Gyn Care Associates of St. Luke's would be cross-covering for us, and she was confident in us so she was confident in them,” says Dr. Osterwald. “In fact, every few months, our practice holds a “meet and greet” for our patients so they have the opportunity to get to know Dr. Avellini’s group, in case she and her practice are cross-covering for us the night our patients go into labor.”
Danielle successfully had a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean), but baby Riley James W., 8 lbs., 6 oz., experienced fetal distress - his heart rate dropped, his breathing was labored and he aspirated meconium, which means stool may have gotten into his lungs. Immediately, the nurses took him to the NICU to assist his breathing and remove swallowed material from his stomach. “When Riley was delivered, we knew that he had swallowed meconium, which can make it hard for babies to breathe,” says Kimberly Costello, DO, director of neonatology at St. Luke’s Hospital. “Meconium aspiration can potentially be life-threatening, which is why we act very quickly to support the baby’s breathing and provide the care needed.”
Riley wasn’t in the NICU for long, but the nurses arranged for Danielle to remain in a hospital room near the NICU after she was discharged to stay close to her newborn. “They call it ‘rooming in’ which is sort of like being in a hotel - I had a bed and shower, but I also had the added bonus of having a highly qualified, warm, friendly, attentive team of doctors and nurses taking care of me and my new baby,” says Danielle. “And despite Riley being whisked away to the NICU, I never really felt scared because the doctors and nurses were so professional, calm and comforting - I always knew that he was in safe hands.”
In the end, through all the challenges and all the obstacles, losing a job, losing health insurance, Danielle eventually got back to the comfort and care of Dr. Osterwald, St. Luke’s Women's Care OB/GYN and St. Luke’s Hospital. Even though Dr. Osterwald was not with her personally at the time of delivery, Danielle was always confident in the St. Luke’s staff who supported Dr. Osterwald. Before, during and after delivery, she believed that there was no one better than the St. Luke’s team of doctors and nurses to care for her and her baby.