Last week, we talked about the stress of having a premature baby. Our very own Dr. Meredith Travelstead and her husband know from personal experience how scary it can be to deliver early and they decided to share this personal experience to give parents in similar circumstances some encouragement. This is just one of the reasons her patients love her so much. She can truly understand what you are going through.
My Experience with Prematurity
By Dr. Meredith Travelstead
When it comes to thinking about prematurity, this is very personal for me. My oldest son, Will, who is now 16 years old, was born very premature only weighing 1 lbs. 14 oz. He was growth-restricted and was born at 30 weeks gestation, 10 weeks before his due date. I was an OB-Gyn resident at UMC finishing up my last year. It was all planned out perfectly. I would finish in June, have a baby in July, and start practice at The Woman’s Clinic in August. However, to my great surprise, when I went for a routine prenatal visit, I had signs of preeclampsia. This was very shocking to me, because I felt great. My doctor and now co-worker at The Woman’s Clinic, Dr. Barbie Sullivan, told me to go home to bed rest and she called my residency director. This was all happening so fast and I wasn’t prepared. This was not what I had planned. This was way too early. I was scared.
I tried to make the best of this, but I knew this could be bad. It was way too early for this to be happening. Everything I had learned in residency flooded my mind. Also, Will was measuring really small. This was another sign of severe preeclampsia. Nevertheless, I tried to make the best of it and planned to go as long as I could. Unfortunately, I was becoming symptomatic after only a few days of bed rest. I was beginning to have headaches after just four days of bed rest, and I called Dr. Sullivan who sent me straight to labor and delivery at the hospital.
My blood pressure was very high, and in addition to caring for me, the staff was also trying to get my son ready by treating me with steroids to accelerate Will’s lung maturity. We hoped to try to buy some more time. After just two days in labor and delivery, we could not wait any longer. This was the time, whether I was ready or not. I had an emergency cesarean section delivering tiny 1 lbs. 14 oz. baby Will.
Afterward, my lab work became more abnormal, and my platelets dropped consistent with severe preeclampsia with liver complication known as HELLP syndrome. I had to have IV Magnesium three times during this hospital stay of 10 days.
I was frightened about how premature Will was. I had apprehension about how he would grow and develop. It was 9 long weeks for him in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The staff and neonatologists were excellent. They cared for him as if he were their own. I have close bonds with them even today. I was well taken care of by all the nursing and hospital staff.
Will had a lot of growing to do, but has done so well through the years. Now, at 16, he is taller than I am (with the help of his endocrinologist). He has no long-term effects of prematurity. He plays sports, makes good grades, and is our true miracle. I try to tell my patients about him when I know they will be experiencing the same situation. I remember wanting to know that there were other kids who had come through this situation and had done well.
God has allowed me to experience some of these difficulties which I believe have helped me empathize with my patients. My second son, Reed, was diagnosed with a VSD heart defect after he was born. I remember the fear and anxiety related to that diagnosis. During the postpartum period after he was born, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis after I had a severe flare. My third son was born early at 36 weeks with ruptured membranes.
I am so thankful for my fellow doctors at The Woman’s Clinic who cared for me and my family as their own. I tell my patients that I never hesitate to have any of them taken care of by any of my partners who are caring, knowledgeable, and excellent physicians. I feel that God had me in the right place at the right time.