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A Birth Journey During COVID-19

Mother Thanks ThedaCare Team for Excellent Care and Peace of Mind

NEENAH, Wis. – When Abby Koehler entered the hospital at the beginning of March 2020, the world was a different place. There were virtually no masks in public and people were just starting to hear the term “social distancing”. It was then that Koehler, who was 23 weeks pregnant, was admitted to ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah after her water broke.

“I remember the OB told me to prepare to deliver my baby within seven days,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe it. It was still so early in my pregnancy, I was scared.”

Koehler did not deliver her baby in March or even April. Dr. Tina Ramsey with Women’s Health Specialists and the team at ThedaCare were able to help Koehler continue her pregnancy until 31.5 weeks. She remained in the hospital during those eight weeks.

“Being in the hospital for so long was challenging for our family,” Koehler said. “We have a three-year-old son at home, and being away from him was difficult. I missed him very much, and he wondered when Mommy was coming home.”

She didn’t see her son for 55 days.

“When I last saw him, he was in diapers,” she said. “When I got home, he was potty-trained and had an entirely new vocabulary. It really put it into perspective how long I was in the hospital.”

Koehler explained how the team helped her through the stay.

“The doctors, nurses, managers, everyone was unbelievable,” she said. “They were all reassuring and positive. They reminded me that I was strong and I would get through it. The nurses even FaceTimed with my son at home, telling him that they were taking good care of Mom.”

Being in the hospital for months during a global pandemic is something Koehler said is hard to explain.

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“I was seeing what was happening on the news, it just didn’t seem real,” she recalled. “Small changes began happening and the team communicated the changes with me. I think the biggest difference was limiting visitors, and being asked to wear a mask.”

After weeks in the hospital, Koehler and her family welcomed their little blessing, Banks. He was 4 lbs, 12 oz. Because he was only 31.5 weeks gestation, Banks was moved to the NICU.

“That’s when COVID-19 really began to impact our family,” said Koehler. “Visitors were limited to one person. So we couldn’t go to the NICU as a family. My husband would drop me off to visit Banks, it was hard without him right next to me.”

Banks proved to be an incredibly strong baby. Throughout his four-week stay in the NICU, he never had a setback and continued to grow and progress every day.

Now, Banks is 7 lbs and doing very well. Koehler credits her strong faith that helped her family through this time.

She wants other expecting moms to understand while there is a pandemic taking place, doctors, nurses and staff are taking all necessary precautions to keep patients safe.

“Trust yourself and trust your care team,” she said. “Do not be afraid of receiving care at this time. They will always do everything they can to protect you and your baby.”

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Delivery during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing how prenatal care and delivery are managed.

“The biggest change is that at this time, typically only one support person is allowed to join an expectant mom for prenatal visits, ultrasounds and during delivery,” said Kimberly Goodacre, MSN, RN, Family Birth Care Manager at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah. “That’s being done to reduce the risk of an asymptomatic person bringing COVID-19 into a medical facility and/or infecting mom or baby.”

Another change is that after the baby is born, grandparents, siblings or other family and friends are not permitted to visit.

“We understand it can be difficult for families who want to share those happy moments,” said Goodacre. “We’ve noticed a lot more texting, sending of photos, and other online interactions to let people meet the new baby.”

ThedaCare team members have gone to great lengths to make facilities safe so we can provide care for patients and families. Here are some precautions to expect:

  • Anyone who enters a ThedaCare facility will be required to wear a mask.
  • Patients will be asked to maintain six feet social distancing from all other patients.
  • Everyone will be asked a series of screening questions about any possible exposure to COVID-19 and if they have any symptoms – cough, fever, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell or problems with vomiting or diarrhea. If those symptoms are present, the appointment should be rescheduled.
  • Everyone will have their temperature checked; either via an ear probe or forehead scan, or in some cases, via an oral check. As long as their temperature is below 99.7 degrees F., they will be allowed to enter.

“ThedaCare birth care teams have been working closely with each family to make decisions based on the clinical condition of each patient, ensuring safety for all after birth,” said Goodacre. “Together, we will help determine the best plan for you and your family.”

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About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to a community of more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs more than 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 locations including seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, New London, Shawano, Waupaca and Wild Rose. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health care organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.