UPHS – Marquette Family Birthing, NICU Teams provide caring birth for Katie during COVID-19

Katie Dushane gave birth to Oaklin on April 14 at UPHS – Marquette.

Under normal circumstances, the complexities of childbirth can naturally manifest tension and uneasiness with any expectant mother. And during a pandemic, those emotions can be exasperated. As Katie Dushane’s scheduled April 14 c-section surgery drew near, her doubts began to increase as the world adjusted to COVID-19. Airlines were canceling the flights her parents were set to travel on to come to visit and help with the baby. People across the country were gathering baby wipes, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer to the point where Katie was left to wonder if any would remain for her and her newborn when they returned from the hospital. And Katie wondered if the simple luxury of having her husband or daughter present to celebrate the newest addition of their family was even possible.

But from the pre-surgery discussions she had with the medical staff, all the way through her care and the two weeks her newborn son, Oaklin, spent in the NICU, all of Katie’s concerns were alleviated by the UP Health System – Marquette Family Birthing Unit.

“In the two weeks that my son spent in the NICU, I felt we were cared for the entire time,” Katie said. “To have nurses take the time to update me in great detail made it much easier knowing he was in the NICU for a reason and he needed time to heal. Nurses would even share personal stories with me of their own experiences, or those close to them. The ability and willingness of our nurses to open up with me and talk with me gave me a sense of normalcy to everything.”

Katie, who works at UPHS – Marquette as an HR Generalist, developed a rapport with the UPHS – Marquette Family Birthing staff before her surgery. Her concerns and questions were answered by the department’s director, who assured her one support person would be able to be present during the c-section and stay with her in the hospital room as long as the person did not leave. Katie would also be permitted to walk the halls as long as she wore a mask, and her newborn could stay with her in the room unless it was decided he would need NICU care.

“After that call, relief fell over me,” Katie said. “I was able to once again focus on the more positive side: having a baby boy.”

On the day of her surgery, Katie noted she was greeted by friendly employees who ensured a quick and seamless check-in process. Once she was in her assigned room in the Family Birthing Center, a nurse explained the process of the c-section and went over who would be stopping by the room to introduce themselves. Inside the hospital, there was a sense of normalcy for Katie.

“Honestly, beyond everyone wearing masks 24-7, I would have never known COVID was influencing hospital processes,” she said. “In my room, everything felt normal and that it was going to be a great day to have a baby. Even my anesthesiologist showed compassion during my entire time in the operating room and worked to ensure I was comfortable, both physically on the table and pain-free during the procedure.”

UPHS staff also took the necessary precautions to protect against COVID-19 by always wearing masks or face shields and using hand sanitizer or washing their hands. Staff only went within the six-foot social distancing guideline when it was necessary to execute the care needed for Katie. Her son would also have a special tag placed on him that would set off an alarm in the event he was too close to an exit door within the locked unit, which gave an extra layer of peace of mind to Katie.

For two days Katie was able to have her newborn son next to her in the hospital room. However, on that second day, he was taken to the NICU for extra medical attention. Stress and frustration began to set in for her.

“While I knew he would be in good hands, just having him wheeled away was very tough for me,” she said. “My nurse came back after my son was settled in the NICU to check in on me and give an update. She could see I was struggling to cope and even form words. After giving me the space I needed, I was greeted by the NICU doctor, who was able to explain what my son was going through. Each time I visited the NICU to see and hold my son, I was fully updated by his assigned nurses. Never at any point did they seem rushed to talk to me, or that I was a bother to them. Each day, I was even able to get an update directly from the doctor or nurse practitioner.”

The direct line of communication served as a key element in providing Katie with a positive mindset. In addition to receiving prompt medical updates, she was the recipient of comfort and caring words from the nurses who would tend to her. Even at her worst times, Katie found relief from UPHS staff.

“The attentiveness of the nurses was something I would not have expected during a time like this, with COVID going on,” she said. “There was one day I just broke down, both mentally and physically. I was alone with my son and felt overwhelmed by everything. After an hour of struggling on my own and coming to terms that I needed help, I reached for that call button in the room. While I wasn’t exactly sure what I expected the nurse to be able to do to help me, I knew I had to at least ask.

“What happened over the course of the next hour, looking back, was amazing. An entire team formed together within 10 minutes to help me find that balance of assistance I needed. A NICU nurse, a Family Birthing nurse, a NICU practitioner, and a hospital resident on rotation in Family Birthing came to help me. I was no longer alone. My son was being happily fed and cared for by the NICU team, while I was shown compassion and understanding from the Family Birthing team.”

With her position as an HR Generalist at UPHS – Marquette, Katie had a unique perspective on her birth. She was able to witness firsthand the operational procedures from her co-workers while being cared for and treated by them.

“As an employee myself, knowing how hard our nurses and support staff work to care for our patients, I knew I would be in good hands,” she said. “While some employees recognized me, not all did right away. Yet, I received the same exceptional level of care from everyone. I was treated like any other patient who could lean on the nurses for help when I needed it, and I was someone who could see that our Environmental Services team genuinely cared about the condition of the room I felt confined to, and if I would voice a question or concern, they responded in a compassionate way.

“My job at the hospital involves me being at a desk most of the day, tucked away from the patient care areas, so to be on the patient floors and watch our employees do their jobs on a daily basis just shows me how important every position at the hospital matters, and that our employees naturally care about their work and their patients.”

For more information about UPHS – Marquette Family Birthing, call 906.449.3400 or click here. For information about the UPHS – Marquette NICU, call 906.449.3440 or click here.

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