Christine Maxwell uses one word to describe the care provided in Regional One Health’s Sheldon B. Korones Newborn Center: miracle.
Since opening in 1968, more than 45,000 premature babies have been treated successfully, and Maxwell believes every instance is an individual miracle. She is a patient care coordinator in the Sheldon B. Korones Newborn Center, where she’s been a nurse for 21 years. It’s the only job Maxwell has had since completing nursing school.
“It’s surreal sometimes because they are all miracles,” she said about working with the tiniest patients at Regional One Health. “It’s usually after the fact, when you’ve been to delivery of an extremely small baby, you’ve helped resuscitate, you’ve brought the baby back from the brink. You get them upstairs to the NICU and start stabilization. It’s at that point it hits me and I take a huge breath and breathe out and think, ‘This is what I do. I’m part of saving lives every day.’”
Maxwell was interested in a nursing career in shock trauma or obstetrics. While completing nursing school clinicals at Regional One Health, Maxwell helped a patient visit her newborn child in the NICU and she immediately realized that’s where she wanted to devote her nursing career. She immediately was drawn to the professionalism of the NICU team and sought out a nursing position for the only health care employer she’s known.
Even in neonatal care, Maxwell believes the beginning of life is the happy side of medicine. It’s made much happier by her co-workers, the people she calls her family.
“Our family always goes back to the same page, which is about the patients,” she said. “It’s a big room where you work with 18 to 20 different women and men. You work closely with these people and you become attached to them. A lot of the girls have been in other nurse’s weddings. We try to take care of each other. There are sisters, mommas, grandmothers and aunts. We all have our roles in each other’s lives.”
Not every patient story is happy. Maxwell has cried with many mothers at the bedside of a struggling newborn. But she’s proud to be part of an elite team that works daily to provide a service to the community. And sometimes the NICU nurses receive a present, so to speak, in the form of a returning healthy and growing child in for a visit.
Maxwell actually recalls one baby, born premature at 26 weeks. While in the unit, the baby stopped breathing and had a long battle through the night.
“I was at the bedside where she crashed and burned and was there to assist the doctors with figuring out what her ultimate issue was, relieving it and giving her an airwave,” Maxwell said. “She was leaving us. It was devastating, but she ultimately made it because of all of our actions. We were all there focused on problem solving until we found the answer.”
Today? That young baby is nearing school age. Thanks to Facebook, Maxwell sees photos of that once-struggling newborn as she celebrates birthdays and simple moments of life. That’s the work of the Regional One Health NICU.
“Nursing is a calling,” Maxwell said. “It’s not just a paycheck. It’s all consuming and it’s a part of you, just like being a doctor or practitioner. It’s what you were meant to do. I know I was meant to be at Regional One Health. I’ve never doubted it. I love it.”