When your 2-year-old needs a minor operation, it’s comforting to know that a free-standing children’s hospital has everything to comfort babies and moms.
Meg Hawley, Social Media Specialist, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio
I did not know I needed a children’s hospital. Sure, I work for a children’s hospital, but my family did not need one – or did we? My daughter, Mary Cameron, just needed tubes in her ears to alleviate the chronic and painful ear infections she was experiencing. It’s a simple procedure that takes about 10 minutes.
Did I ever think I would need a children’s hospital? My baby was not born with a complex heart condition; my teenager was not diagnosed with a rare disorder; and I didn’t have a high-risk pregnancy that would require the most advanced care for me or my baby.
It turns out, we did indeed need a children’s hospital. Children, all children, need a children’s hospital. You could even argue that parents need one just as much as the kids do.
I was telling a friend about Mary Cameron’s ear tube procedure and how everything went so smoothly. Her son would soon need the same operation and she wanted to know what to expect. I immediately realized there were three things that made the process less scary and gave me comfort as a mom: A pediatric anesthesiologist, a visit with a Child Life Specialist to practice with the sedation mask, and a little car she got to “drive” into the operating room so that she was completely distracted and unconcerned when I had to kiss her head and say, “See you later.”
As I talked with my friend, I realized she may not have access to these child-friendly features in the town where she lives. These are very specific attributes and they don’t exist everywhere. Adult hospitals and surgery centers may not have these services but you can find them all in a children’s hospital. I quickly realized, yes, my family actually needed a children’s hospital.
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio is “the city’s first and only free-standing children’s hospital.” As part of the CHRISTUS communications team, I have written that phrase more than a few hundred times. While I sat in recovery with my loopy 2-year-old, coming out of anesthesia, enjoying her post-op Popsicle, I realized that I may never associate what that truly means as a mere marketing catch phrase. From now on, it will feel like a promise. A promise to me, Mary Cameron, and the rest of San Antonio that children always come first within this building and that’s why a children’s hospital is essential in every community.
At age 40, Amarachi discovered she was pregnant. She and her husband were thrilled to welcome a new baby into their family. Dr. James Hill with the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care was by her side every step of the way helping to manage her high-risk pregnancy.
When Amarachi Ogu found out she was pregnant, she was overjoyed about becoming a mother again. She and her husband, David, are parents to 2-year-old Adaeze who keeps them quite busy. But the couple always wanted a little sibling for their daughter. This time, they were expecting a baby boy.
“We were excited to become parents again,” said Amarachi. “I remember the day when I found out I was pregnant. I was feeling a little dizzy but that wasn’t unusual because I felt the same way when I was pregnant with my daughter. Since I had been bleeding, I thought the chances of being pregnant were slim, but I decided to buy a few home pregnancy tests anyway. When I took the first test, it came back positive. Then I took a second test, and it was positive again. I was surprised and confused. When I saw my OB-GYN, she confirmed I was six weeks pregnant. She told me I was spotting, and it wasn’t a period.”
Since Amarachi had a history of placenta previa with her first pregnancy, and she was spotting, her OB-GYN, Dr. Angela Akonye, suggested she take a small dose of aspirin daily throughout her pregnancy. Since she was 40 years old – pregnant women over the age of 35 are considered high risk due to their advanced maternal age – Dr. Akonye referred Amarachi to Dr. James Hill, a Maternal-Fetal Medicine physician with The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio who monitored her pregnancy and her baby closely.
“My pregnancy was extremely difficult, especially during the first 14 weeks,” said Amarachi. “I had so many unpleasant symptoms happening all at once – I had nausea, vomiting, dizziness and extreme fatigue. I was tired all the time. I had to miss two weeks of work because I was feeling sick. The biggest challenge was keeping food down. The only thing I was able to eat was white rice and crackers. For some reason, whenever I am pregnant, I have a hard time drinking water. The whole relationship with water was tough for me at the time. My OB-GYN prescribed nausea pills, which helped me a little bit.”
Despite the symptoms that came with her pregnancy, the couple’s son was doing well. His weekly ultrasounds showed that he was growing and developing like he should. Then, when Amarachi was 20 weeks along, she had incompetent cervix (also known as cervical insufficiency), where the cervix begins to thin out too early in pregnancy, which can lead to miscarriage, preterm labor and premature birth.
“When I met with Dr. Hill, he was concerned about my cervix, and he told me we had to do something quickly before it complicated the pregnancy,” said Amarachi. “He said there were two treatment options to consider. He could put a stitch in my cervix to reinforce it or he could give me vaginal progesterone to reduce the risk of pregnancy loss or premature labor. I was concerned, but I told him please give me a week. I am a person of faith. Let me go home, talk to my husband, and pray on it. He said, “I’ll give you a week but if you come back and it is still there, we need to do something to avoid any complications. When I came back a week later, Dr. Hill did another test on my cervix – and my cervix returned back to normal. Dr. Hill asked me, “What happened? What did you do? And I said, God did it. I felt a big sense of relief.”
As Amarachi’s pregnancy progressed, she continued to see Dr. Hill for her baby’s weekly anatomy scans. She and her baby checked out well. Thankfully, Amarachi didn’t show signs of placenta previa like she did with her first pregnancy, a condition where the placenta covers parts of the cervix which can lead to severe bleeding and preterm birth. She had no major complications other than the physical discomfort of being pregnant. Since the baby sat lower, she had a lot of back pain and wasn’t able to exercise like she did when she was pregnant with her daughter. Once the baby was full term, Amarachi had a scheduled induction for April 12, 2022. But it turns out her son had other plans on when he’d make his debut.
“I remember doing my regular chores at home and running a few errands,” said Amarachi. “Ten days before my scheduled induction, I started to feel intense pressure. I didn’t know I was going into labor because with my daughter, I was induced. I started to feel pressure in my lower back. The feeling was coming every 10 minutes or so. When I got home, I told my husband that I think I was going into labor. I was having excruciating pain. By the time we got to the hospital, I was already nine centimeters dilated. My labor progressed rather quickly. In less than an hour and with one big push, our baby boy was here.”
On April 2, Amarachi and David welcomed their son, Peter, at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – Westover Hills. He weighed 6 pounds, 7 ounces. From the moment they laid eyes on him, he stole their heart.
“I was so emotional when I first saw him and cradled him in my arms,” said Amarachi. “It was just an amazing feeling to meet our beautiful son. He was healthy and perfect in every way. I had a wonderful experience with Dr. Hill and his team. That is why I asked to go back to Dr. Hill for my second pregnancy. If I had to be seen again by a specialist, I wanted to be seen by Dr. Hill. He and his staff are very caring, pleasant and professional. They know you by name – and don’t treat you like you are just a patient. Thankfully, I didn’t have complications this time around. From my experiences with my first and second pregnancies, I’ve learned that it really helps when you trust and feel comfortable with your doctor. That’s how I have always felt with Dr. Hill. He has your best interests and your baby’s interest at heart.”
The Ogus say 2-month-old Peter is doing well and is the perfect addition to their family of four. Their daughter loves her little brother and is getting used to not always being the center of attention. While the Ogus are adjusting to taking care of a newborn and toddler, they thank God for their blessings.
“This pregnancy was such a blessing. The reason my husband and I named our son Peter (meaning the rock) is because God was and continues to be our rock,” said Amarachi. “I unfortunately suffered a miscarriage prior to becoming pregnant with Peter. We were so devastated, but we trusted God to help us heal and restore us, which He did! When I was 10 weeks pregnant with Peter, my husband became very ill and was hospitalized for one week. This was a very difficult time because I was dealing with severe morning sickness and taking care of my husband. Through it all God was faithful and again was our rock through it all.” At the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care, our team of dedicated specialists delivers peace of mind to women and their families through coordinated, comprehensive and compassionate care. To learn more about The Center for Maternal and Fetal Care, please visit: https://www.christushealth.org/childrens/services-treatments/womens-services/maternal-fetal-medicine
Baby Vernon was born with a condition called meconium aspiration syndrome that required him to be transferred to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. The ECMO team was put on standby waiting for his condition to change.
Jeneva Sotello and her husband Vernon Kistler were surprised when they discovered they were expecting another baby. They hadn’t planned on welcoming a new addition, and they were initially stressed and worried about how they would manage with an already full household. But they soon embraced the idea and couldn’t wait for Baby Vernon’s arrival.
Because she had no problems during pregnancy, Jeneva decided to deliver Baby Vernon at CHIRSTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – Westover Hills. The couple didn’t anticipate needing access to a level IV neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and weren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary. However, as soon as Baby Vernon was born, he would need to be transferred to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio (CHofSA) because he had trouble breathing.
“I barely got to see him after delivery. The nurses took him immediately and then informed me that he would need to be transferred because he was in distress,” said Jeneva. “I got to give him a quick kiss, and then they whisked him away.”
Jeneva had to spend the night in the hospital because doctors wanted to monitor her after giving birth; she would have to wait until the next day to see Vernon again.
“As soon as I was discharged, I headed over to CHofSA so I could see my baby. The doctors had Vernon connected to a bunch of machines and were giving him lots of medication because he wasn’t responding to any of the other treatments,” said Jeneva. “It was a scary sight.”
Vernon had a condition called meconium aspiration syndrome. It happens when a baby breathes a mixture of meconium and amniotic fluid into the lungs right around the time of birth. Meconium is an early stool that a baby passes soon after delivery; sometimes, like in Vernon’s case, it happens when the baby is still inside the uterus. If not immediately addressed, meconium aspiration can make a baby extremely sick and even cause death. Meconium stain amniotic fluid occurs in one of 10 pregnancies, with 5 percent of these infants developing meconium aspiration syndrome.
Because Vernon had meconium aspiration syndrome, he was at risk of developing hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). A neonatal brain injury, HIE occurs when a baby’s brain does not receive oxygen and can cause brain impairments, including epilepsy, developmental delays and motor and cognitive skill problems.
Dr. Maria Pierce, a neonatologist at CHofSA, initiated a procedure called whole body cooling to help lower Vernon’s body temperature. The process helps slow down the brain’s metabolism to prevent further damage. His care team also placed Vernon on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) watch. ECMO is a heart and lung bypass machine that pumps and oxygenates blood outside the body allowing the heart and lungs to rest until they have time to recover. CHofSA is one of only a few centers in the region that can perform ECMO to support these babies.
Thankfully, Vernon never needed ECMO because as soon as Jeneva arrived and was able to be near Vernon, he started to turn a corner. His breathing and other vital signs steadily improved.
“It was like Vernon knew his mom was near and could relax,” said Jeneva. “From there, he just continued to get stronger and better.”
Jeneva and her husband were relieved that Vernon was improving. They had never experienced anything like this with their other children, so everything was somewhat chaotic.
“We just didn’t know what to expect, and it was overwhelming going back and forth to the hospital while managing our other kids and our home-based business,” said Jeneva. “And not knowing how much longer he would have to stay in the NICU was hard, too.”
Vernon was born on January 28 and spent 40 days in the NICU at CHofSA before being discharged on March 9.
Since he’s been home, Vernon has been doing really well. He’s been growing and is always hungry.
Jeneva says Vernon is always smiling, and the other kids love to play and talk to him. He has reached several milestones, and doctors expect him to grow into a normal, healthy child.
Although Vernon’s experience was stressful for their family, Jeneva and her husband know they were in the right place at the right time.
“All of the nurses and the doctors who took care of Vernon were incredible, especially Dr. Pierce. She would always keep me updated no matter what,” said Jeneva. “I couldn’t always be at the hospital because I had other kids to take care of, but I know Vernon was always in good hands, and I didn’t have to worry constantly.”
When asked about what Jeneva would say to other mothers facing similar circumstances, she said she would tell them to lean into prayer and leave it in God’s hands.
“The whole time we were going through everything at CHOSA, I just kept believing that everything was going to be OK, and it was. I had every faith in the doctors and the rest of the care team and knew in my heart that everything would be all right,” she said.