An Exceptional Experience

In late June, Melinda Gallagher gave birth to her sixth child, a healthy baby girl named Amelia. A few days later, Amelia was
officially discharged from the hospital.

But Melinda couldn't be discharged with her new daughter. Faced with complications, Melinda underwent a surgical procedure the day after Amelia's delivery. She was unable to care for herself, let alone a dependent newborn.

Melinda Gallagher and ChildrenIn such cases, a discharged infant usually stays with the mom, but is no longer cared for by Birthways staff. Instead, a family member, such as the baby's father or grandparent, will be on hand to help.

The Gallaghers' Dilemma

But Mary Greeley Medical Center Birthways staff faced a unique situation. Melinda's husband, Ken, needed to be in Des Moines to be with his dying mother. When he wasn't spending time with his mother, Ken was at home in Jefferson taking care of the other Gallagher children. The oldest child, 11-year-old Alison, stayed at the medical center and did what she could to help her mom and new baby sister.

Birthways director Nyla Carswell, R.N., B.S.N., M.P.A., was informed of the Gallaghers' dilemma by Birthways nurse Sheri Butler, R.N., B.S.N. Carswell had to make a decision about how to best support Amelia's care, even though she was no longer a patient. From a compassion standpoint, the choice to take care of Amelia seemed to be a no-brainer. But the decision wasn't that simple because regulatory procedures and other factors had to be considered.

A Personal Touch

In the end, Carswell turned to the "Specialized Care. Personal Touch" philosophy of Mary Greeley Medical Center.

"We say we provide a personal touch and specialized care, and this is an example of that," says Carswell.

"I was so grateful to be allowed this exception," says Melinda. "It allowed me to focus on getting better while Amelia was well cared for. Had I been responsible for her entire care while a patient there, I would have taken longer to recover from the problems that resulted from my surgery."

Staffing was one of the issues that Carswell had to consider in her decision. Birthways staff always sees to the needs of moms and infants in their care. In Melinda's case, staffing was sufficient (and the staff was more than willing) to care for Amelia. But there were also issues of liability, as the hospital would be taking responsibility for Amelia, who was no longer a patient.

"We put ourselves out there a little bit," says Carswell. "We can't do this sort of thing every day, but the needs of this particular family overrode everything. We knew we could accommodate the situation and we felt we should accommodate it because the bonding between a newborn and a mother is so important."

Melinda remained in the Birthways unit for almost a week. Birthways nurses transported Amelia from the nursery to her mom's room, and watched her when Melinda was asleep. Melinda says it was "an exceptional experience."

"We had wonderful care from our nurses," she says. "Julie Hull (R.N.) provided amazing care. She was initially our labor and delivery nurse the day we arrived, but was also our nurse for several different shifts throughout the time I was there. Julie has a contagious smile and is such a skilled nurse. Her kind and gentle demeanor was much appreciated during this difficult time. She and the Birthways staff often went above and beyond to make sure I had everything I needed to be comfortable."

Melinda has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instructional technology and is a former educational outreach coordinator with Iowa Public Television. But her experience at Mary Greeley Medical Center has revived interest in another career path.

"I've considered nursing for several years. I've now seen how fulfilling and rewarding this career is," says Melinda. "This might just be the motivation I need."