Saving Savannah


Bayhealth Saves Baby Born Two Months Premature

Savannah Jane Snow came into the world two months early and weighing a fragile three pounds, 11 ounces. Less than a year later, Savannah was a healthy, happy, 18 pound baby who charms family members and strangers alike. Her parents credit the Special Care Nursery at Bayhealth – Kent General Hospital.

Jonathan and Whitney Snow were expecting their first child in December 2009. However, Whitney suffered from pre-eclampsia, which could potentially put her life at risk. As a result, she needed a Cesarean section to remove her placenta and facilitate an early childbirth. The Snows arrived at Kent General on a Saturday afternoon and by Monday evening, October 26, Savannah was born.

“It was hard not having my baby with me in the same room but, at the same time, I knew Savannah was getting great care in the Special Care Nursery. Jonathan and I went home the same week but we visited Savannah there three times a day, and so did her grandparents and great-grandparents,” Whitney Snow said.

“The Special Care Nursery nurses were wonderful. We knew Savannah was getting the best care so we did not worry about her. We could call anytime day or night, and they would give us updates on how she was doing,” said Jonathan Snow.

“We would literally call at three o’clock in the morning and the nurses were happy to give us the update. That gave us peace of mind,” said Whitney Snow. “The nurses became part of our family – we knew their names and knew they were looking out for her.”

The Special Care Nursery nurses nurtured and comforted Savannah, and helped the tiny girl grow to a healthy weight. Initially, Savannah was fed through an intravenous feeding tube that ran through her nose or mouth, down her esophagus and into her stomach. The feisty baby often yanked at her own feeding tube but the nurses were always nearby to help. They closely monitored Savannah’s vital signs and kept her in a special incubator to preserve her body temperature.

Eventually, Savannah was able to maintain her own temperature and suckle on breast milk by herself without needing the feeding tube. Slowly, steadily, she grew out of the “danger zone” and the anxiety finally dissipated for Jonathan and Whitney.

“Of course, it was hard emotionally. At first, I had my points of nervousness, but eventually I could feel at ease because I knew she was getting the care she needed,” said Whitney Snow.

Part of the comfort also stemmed from the support and education the Snow family received from the Special Care Nursery staff. Since baby Savannah was two months premature, Whitney and Jonathan had not attended birthing classes yet. With no previous parental experience, simple questions became a conundrum. How do we change a diaper? What’s the best way to bathe her? What do we do if she cokes on a piece of food?

“It’s interesting that you get an instruction manual when you buy a new iPhone, but there’s no instruction manual that comes with a new baby. We were lucky the (Special Care Nursery) staff was there to help us,” said Whitney Snow.

The nursing staff provided an “A toZ” primer on infant care. They offered CPR training to the entire Snow family, including grandparents and other family members who might be called into babysitting duty. They provided resources that could not be found in a book.

“Our care is part of a continuum that starts before the baby is born, extends through childbirth and post-partum care, and continues after parents and baby are discharged from the hospital. We make sure that parents have all the resources and education they need to care for a special needs baby,” said Bayhealth Special Care Nurse Manager Pam Laymon, RNC-LRN.

The special Care Nursery is also very proactive in identifying babies who may require a higher level of care. Not all special care conditions can be predicted in advance. Yet, a highly trained, certified staff member is always ready to respond quickly to unanticipated emergencies. The Special Care Nursery has 25 nurses, including at least three nurses on duty at all times. There are neonatologists, neonatology hospitalists, and neonatology nurse practitioners ready to respond.

“There could always be a change in fetal status. A vaginal delivery could become a Cesarean section due to complications. Or, a baby could be born not breathing. That’s why it’s always crucial to have highly trained staff at the baby’s bedside at all times,” said Laymon.

With more than 30 Special Care Nursery admissions per month, the staff has invaluable experience treating unstable blood sugar, infection, respiratory distress syndrome, and a wide range of other complications stemming from premature birth. Therapies include respiratory support, IV therapy, antibiotic treatment and cardiopulmonary, blood sugar and blood oxygen monitoring. All of this translates into positive outcomes and an experience that helps parents for many years after their child is born.

“This whole experience has strengthened us. My husband and I are finally at ease. And we can be happy for a healthy baby,” said Whitney Snow, who marvels at how her tiny preemie has blossomed into a bright, cheery and vivacious child.

“Savannah’s doing great. She’s in good health, she talks all the time and she’s a happy baby. We owe this all to (Bayhealth),” said Whitney Snow. “We know the medical facility is great but it’s really the people working there who make the biggest difference.”

Please click here for more on Mary Jane Willis' story.

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