This past June, Jennifer and Ray Moon brought their three children to Hilton Head Island for vacation. Two weeks later, they left with one more child.
The Warthen, Georgia, family came earlier than usual for their yearly visit because Jennifer was pregnant with their fourth child. She still had more than a month until her due date, though.
A few days into their vacation, Jennifer noticed the baby wasn’t moving as much as usual. He had been very active up to that point. Then she started having contractions, which she assumed were false labor pains known as Braxton Hicks contractions.
“This is baby number four,” Jennifer said. “This isn’t anything new.”
The family had planned to visit the Harbour Town Lighthouse that day, then play miniature golf.
Jennifer sat in a rocking chair in the shade as her family climbed to the top of the lighthouse and back down. She hoped the pains would cease, but they did not.
The family didn’t get to play putt-putt that day. Instead, they went back to the condo for a movie night. Jennifer took a relaxing bath to ease her discomfort, but it did not help. The contractions became more consistent, and it became clear that she needed to go to the hospital.
Ray drove his wife to Hilton Head Hospital, reluctantly leaving her there so he could take care of their three children back at the condo. At 11:30 that night, Jennifer was transferred to Coastal Carolina Hospital, which had just opened its level-2 special care nursery two months earlier.
Before the new nursery opened, babies born prior to 35 weeks gestation at Hilton Head or Coastal Carolina hospitals had to be transferred to either Savannah or Charleston for special care. Now, many of those in need can stay local. The new nursery is capable of taking care of infants born as early as 32 weeks gestation and weighing at least 3 pounds, 3 ounces.
According to a press release from Coastal Carolina, the special care nursery has a neonatologist, neonatal nurse practitioners, level-2 registered nurses, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists and lactation consultants.
An OB-GYN certified in responding to obstetrical and gynecological emergencies and an anesthesiologist are available 24 hours a day.
The hospital has a suite reserved for C-section deliveries, Couplet Care bassinets, and support for women who want a natural birth.
Jennifer was already planning to have the baby via C-section.
“It went off without a hitch,” she said. “And Fletcher was born at 1:48 a.m.” The baby weighed 6 pounds, 3 ounces.
After Jennifer’s surgery was complete, her blood pressure began to plummet, and she started crashing.
“So my husband gets a phone call, asking him if it’s OK to give me blood transfusions and to do a CT scan,” Jennifer said. “‘Oh, and by the way, you have a son.’”
The CT scan revealed that Jennifer was profusely bleeding internally. Ray got another phone call, asking for permission to give his wife more transfusions and to perform a hysterectomy.
When the team began to operate, they realized that Jennifer’s uterus had ruptured on the back side. She received eight units of blood, four units of platelets and two units of plasma.
Unfortunately, all the blood pumping through her left hand led to two superficial blood clots in her upper left arm, and she had to be transferred to Savannah to make sure nothing vascular was going on.
But before Jennifer was transferred, the team at Coastal Carolina made sure she got to meet her new baby.
“That team was just amazing,” Jennifer said. “They did everything they possibly could. They took … my son’s little bed and all of his wires and everything that was connected to him and rolled him down to me in ICU so I could see him before I was transferred.”
Jennifer got to spend five minutes with Fletcher before being taken to Savannah, where she stayed for the next 36 hours.
Unfortunately, when she made it back to Coastal Carolina, she was readmitted to the emergency room because her surgeons were concerned about the amount of pain she was still experiencing.
Thankfully, she was only there for a couple of hours, and all was soon right with the world, when Jennifer was finally able to spend some quality time with her newborn son.
Jennifer can’t say enough about the staff at Coastal Carolina. She said surgeons Dr. Brooke Gaspari and Dr. Lynn Norton took great care of her, and the nursery staff kept Fletcher safe and comfortable.
The staff even took care of the rest of her family when they arrived. When Ray first got to the hospital to meet his new son, he had the three older children with him until family members were able to get there to help. Jennifer said the staff gave the kids teddy bears and coloring packets, fed them, and made sure they weren’t scared.
She said the staff even allowed the couple to stay in a room in the labor and delivery ward so they could be with Fletcher until he was released.
“The nurses, the doctors, the NPs, the custodial staff, everybody was amazing,” Jennifer said. “They just took us in, and we were part of their family for 10 days, and it felt like we had been there forever.”
Fletcher is now five months old. He has had a few minor issues but is thriving.
“We now call him Squish because he’s just a big, old chunky baby getting fat off of Mama’s milk and loving life,” Jennifer said.
The Moons are already planning their next vacation to Hilton Head. They look forward to stopping by the hospital to say hello to the team that they called family for the first 10 days of their youngest child’s life.
And this time, they will make sure to get to the miniature golf course for some putt-putt.
Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.