Mom Finds St. Luke’s Obstetrician Who Made the Challenges of a Complicated Pregnancy a Little Easier
Most new parents would agree that the path from pregnancy to birth is a dizzying array of nerves, excitement, chaos and elation. But for parents who are faced with pregnancy complications from the start, it can also be filled with anxiety, tension and fear. Pregnancy was a tough journey for Erin A. of Bethlehem. But thankfully, she found the right obstetrician who would get to know her, make her feel comfortable and really listen to her.
Most new parents would agree that the path from pregnancy to birth is a dizzying array of nerves, excitement, chaos and elation. But for parents who are faced with pregnancy complications from the start, it can also be filled with anxiety, tension and fear.
Pregnancy was a tough journey for Erin A. of Bethlehem. But thankfully, she found the right obstetrician who would make all the challenges a little more bearable. Erin’s mother-in-law had worked for Richard Baker, MD for 28 years and when Erin’s previous gynecologist retired, her mother-in-law gave Dr. Baker a ringing endorsement. “At my initial appointment, I realized that I had found a physician that actually listens to his patients,” recalls Erin. “Dr. Baker took the time to get to know me, to make me feel comfortable and really listen. He also has a great sense of humor, which was sometimes necessary with all the seriousness that I endured over nine months!”
Very early on in Erin’s pregnancy, Dr. Baker was concerned that she wasn’t gaining the recommended one pound per week expectant mothers should gain. In fact, she was losing weight. By 20 weeks, Dr. Baker was worried enough about the weight loss and accompanying symptoms that he admitted Erin for observation and tests. While she was in the hospital, she met Christopher Wayock, MD who would turn out to be a hero for her unborn baby.
Dr. Wayock is a maternal-fetal medicine physician with St. Luke’s Hospital. Maternal-fetal medicine doctors specialize in complicated and high-risk pregnancies. As part of Erin’s in-hospital anatomy ultrasound, Dr. Wayock discovered that Erin had a condition called vasa previa. Vasa previa is very rare, seen in about 1 in 2500 pregnancies, but, left untreated, the fetal mortality rate is approximately 44 percent. When reading the ultrasound, Dr. Wayock noticed a blood vessel coursing over the upper end of the cervix that opens into the uterus, a clear sign of vasa previa.
“What Dr. Wayock was telling us was terrifying, but he had a genuine, calming mannerism that made us feel like everything was going to be ok,” explains Erin. “Vasa previa is so rare that many doctors have no experience with it whatsoever, but Dr. Wayock recognized it early enough to do something about it.” After the diagnosis, Dr. Wayock and Dr. Baker continually monitored Erin’s pregnancy with twice per week office visits, scans and fetal non-stress tests. “Both doctors were in constant contact with each other throughout my pregnancy to discuss the health of the baby, treatment plans, medications that I needed and the likelihood of an early delivery - I felt completely taken care of.” “Erin was a great patient who understood the severity of the situation and constantly communicated her symptoms with us so we could work with Dr. Baker on the right management strategy for the best and safest possible outcome,” explains Dr. Wayock.
After the vasa previa diagnosis, Dr. Baker checked in with Erin constantly. “Every time I was admitted to the hospital for one reason or another, he was there. Every call to his office was answered immediately, any questions we had we knew we could call him and we would have an answer that day,” remembers Erin. “Dr. Baker is so dedicated to his patients and that was very clear throughout this scary time in our lives.”
Anticipating a high risk, premature delivery, Erin and Steve scheduled a tour of the NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) and a meeting with Kimberly Costello, DO, director of neonatology at St. Luke’s Hospital. “Knowing that the Arnold’s baby would need the NICU was an advantage,” notes Dr. Costello. “The maternal fetal medicine team expertly diagnosed Erin’s condition, so we could adequately prepare ahead of delivery for taking care of the baby as well as the mom.” The St. Luke’s NICU is staffed by a team of highly specialized, board-certified neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, specialty trained nurses, lactation consultants and occupational and physical therapists. “The St. Luke’s NICU is first rate,” describes Erin. “It far exceeds any other in the area- especially because they are efficiently staffed and the babies get one on one care, which was really important to me.”
After several weeks, multiple hospital visits and lots of bedrest, baby Landon was born via c-section at 33 weeks to the day. He was immediately whisked away to the NICU to be vented because he wasn’t breathing on his own. Later that day, Erin and Steve finally got to meet their baby boy in the NICU - 4 pounds, 1 ounce. The tubes, IVs and Cpap machine couldn’t mar that perfect moment when they finally got to see their son. As hard as it was to see him in the NICU isolette, Erin and Steve knew he was in good hands.
“Landon was born on a Saturday and Dr. Baker was off,” recalls Erin. “But he kept in constant contact with me all day long and came in for the delivery.” Erin and Steve were so grateful that Dr. Baker would be the one to safely deliver their baby into the world. “We were nervous about the complications with delivering our child because of our rare condition and the potential of what could go wrong,” explains Erin. “Dr. Baker even stayed after my c-section, met with our family to discuss everything that happened and assured them everyone was okay. His knowledge, professionalism, dedication and bedside manner are just a few of his superb qualities as a physician and what makes him such a special person - I will never be able to thank him enough.”
While Landon was healthy and the delivery was successful, the new little family clocked some time in the NICU post delivery. “The nursing staff made sure I could give my baby every advantage, including breastfeeding and kangaroo care, so he could be strong enough to come home with us,” says Erin. The nursing staff was supportive of Erin’s desire to nurse, even if Landon was hooked up to wires and tubes. “The doctors and nurses made it very clear that breastfeeding was best for my baby - they even consider breastmilk a medication in the NICU!”
Erin was discharged five days post delivery, but baby Landon remained in the hospital for 30 days. During that time, Erin and Steve remained in the NICU as much as possible - often from early morning to late at night. Erin would come to the hospital with Steve, who is a St. Luke’s employee and stay with him until Steve left work and joined her later in the day. Landon eventually got stronger, gained weight and developed his “suck, swallow, breathe” skills, which can be difficult for preemies to master. “Steve and I got to know everyone in the NICU really well,” says Erin. “The doctors and nurses in the St. Luke’s NICU are truly a blessing - they make you feel like family. They taught us everything we needed to know about taking care of our baby.”
As an RN at St. Luke’s cardiac catheterization lab, Steve had a unique perspective on what it was like to be on the patient side of care. “Being an employee during this entire experience gave me an even greater appreciation for how nurses can comfort patients and families during a tough time,” explains Steve. “From my wife’s high risk pregnancy to my newborn son’s time in the NICU, it was the most scared I’ve ever been. But knowing that they were both taken care of by a caring and competent staff, I slept better each and every night I went home without them.”
After a few setbacks including a bout of bradycardia, a condition often seen in premature babies in which the heart declines to a rate slower than it should, Landon was finally strong and healthy enough to leave the hospital. Landon is now thriving at home and Erin and Steve are thrilled to be a happy, healthy family.