As an expectant mother, you can read every book on the market but nothing can adequately prepare you for giving birth, especially if complications develop. At that point, it’s important to have caring, competent people at your side.
Kristine Gregory knows this all too well.
“Nothing could prepare me for the feelings of helplessness and loss of control over my body, my baby and my hospital course,” says the Scituate resident who gave birth to her first child, William, in May of 2005. “My labor was not easy. It lasted for 13 hours, including almost three hours of pushing, and then a Cesarean section.”
Naturally curious – and an attorney specializing in medical malpractice defense work – Kristine says she had many questions for her nurse, Christine Hurston, RN, once she was taken to a post-partum room. Each question was answered patiently and completely.
“(She) went out of her way to answer my questions and, although I am sure she has been asked each question a million times by other women, she answered each as if she were answering it for the first time, and as if it were not coming from a scared, neurotic first-time mother,” Kristine says of Hurston.
“There is no question that (she) respects her patients and, by honoring that respect, instills dignity into what are undoubtedly some of the most embarrassing, awkward and terrifying moments of a woman’s life.”
Kristine’s questions went beyond the ordinary when William developed jaundice. Despite this complication, she felt confident that she and her husband, Bob, could use the special equipment at home to treat the jaundice. The Gregorys said goodbye to Hurston and the other staff.
One day later, however, the couple brought their newborn back to Women & Infants because the level of bilirubin - a chemical that causes jaundice and, if left untreated, could lead to retardation, physical abnormalities or blindness - in his system had not gone down. The news was terrifying for Kristine and Bob.
“When a first-time mom has been told that her baby is sick enough to be readmitted to the hospital, the emotional pain is far worse than even the physical pain of the C-section and the fear is almost tangible,” she says. “After nine months of anticipating a happy, uneventful homecoming, in the blink of an eye, my dreams and hopes were all put on hold. The surprise and angst definitely showed on my face, long after I had stopped crying.”
Kristine and Bob arrived back on the fifth floor, where Kristine had been a recovering mother just days before. It was shift change and the weary mother caught sight of a familiar face. Christine Hurston came right over and caught her up in a warm hug. She brought the family to the nursery where she personally placed William under stronger lights to treat his condition and then helped settle his parents in the nearby family room.
“She went above and beyond for us,” Kristine says. “You can tell when a nurse cares and is not just doing a job. For her to remember us and remember our names, to give us a hug and make sure we were comfortable was very personable.”
During William’s two-day stay in the special care nursery, the family was introduced to another special nurse, Carol Collins, RN, who cared for the baby.
“Carol was genuinely relieved and excited to report that our son’s bilirubin levels had gone down within the first 12 hours. She celebrated with us,” Kristine notes.
Such personal care made a difficult situation easier for the Gregory family. The nurses were attentive and listened to a mother’s concerns and fears. They offered their own experiences as a way of placing the anxious first-time parents at ease.
“My husband and I felt as if both nurses Hurston and Collins were invested in our son and truly cared for his well-being. He was not just another baby that passes through the hospital,” Kristine Gregory says. “Having seen what those nurses have surely seen, and as busy as they obviously are, it was amazing to me that they gave such patient, loving attention to us and to Will, and never once made us feel as if we were overreacting to the situation. Rather, they treated Will as if he were a family member and that put us at ease. After all, everyone is more comfortable around family.”