Audrey Nicodemus was nervous about going through a high-risk pregnancy in the middle of a pandemic, but she found comfort and friendship from her medical team at Regional One Health.
She said Dr. Molly Houser oversaw a plan of care that allowed her to give her new baby a healthy start.
The exceptional care continued when little Lawson was born and spent time in the NICU. Now, Audrey and her family are home and grateful for the compassionate care they received.
A high-risk pregnancy in the middle of a pandemic – with the specialized care you need two hours away – could feel overwhelming. But Audrey and Taylor Nicodemus say Regional One Health gave them new hope, new friends and, best of all, a sweet new baby boy named Lawson.
“At first, my pregnancy felt very nerve-wracking. I think I cried every other day!” Audrey said. “But Regional One Health made it as easy and stress-free as possible. After my first visit, I was able to start feeling excited.”
Audrey had a condition where antibodies in her blood were attacking her baby’s red blood cells, causing anemia, jaundice and a high risk of miscarriage.
She wanted to give Lawson his best chance at a healthy start, so she asked her doctor in Union City for a referral to our Maternal Fetal Medicine practice. As soon as she met Molly Houser, MD, FACOG, CDE, she knew she was in the right place: “I knew they had a lot of knowledge and experience, and when I went for the first time, I immediately felt comfortable.”
After lab work, ultrasound blood flow studies and umbilical cord blood sampling confirmed Lawson was significantly anemic, Dr. Houser got to work.
“We started fetal blood transfusions early on, and Audrey had 10 transfusions altogether,” she said. “That requires a lot of commitment from the patient. You’re using ultrasound to stick a needle into a tiny vein with a fetus moving around. It’s very stressful because there is a chance of complications, so you have to always be prepared for an emergency C-section. It’s also a very lengthy procedure, and the patient has to lie perfectly still for several hours.”
“Audrey was so determined. She wanted to do everything she could for her baby.”
Dr. Houser’s calm, comforting guidance made that possible for Audrey. “She had a plan, she was very positive, and she was very proactive. I automatically relaxed and felt more confidence,” she said. “I saw how meticulous they were. I knew she would stay on top of everything.”
She also knew Dr. Houser and her team would be there for her emotionally, which was crucial as she made the two-hour trip from Union City again and again. “It felt like home – they took us under their wing. We knew we’d see familiar faces every time, and that made it so much better.”
For Dr. Houser, it was easy to empathize with Audrey’s situation. When she was 14, she was in a horseback riding accident and had to travel from northeast Tennessee to Memphis for care that would save her leg. Her surgeon’s compassion helped her get through it.
“It was a very scary, traumatic time for me as a young person, so I know what’s it like to need medical care and be afraid that something bad could happen,” Dr. Houser said. “To come to a strange city and a big medical center and find someone who really cared made a huge difference for me. It’s the reason I became a doctor – I wanted to be that person for someone.”
Maternal fetal medicine is the perfect field for that. “A lot of our patients have had losses and traumatic experiences,” Dr. Houser said. “To work through their options and have the best outcome is very rewarding. We have an incredible team that works hard to put patients at ease.”
Audrey felt the team’s embrace every step of the way, which was crucial since COVID-19 rules meant she couldn’t have her full support system with her.
Her ultrasound tech printed countless images to share with family. During transfusions, nurses checked in to make sure she was comfortable or just say hello. When she was ready to deliver, her anesthesiologist eased her fears about her epidural by letting her know what to expect.
“I was nervous, but Dr. Houser said she knew what I’d gone through to get Lawson here, and she wanted me to be awake when he came out,” Audrey said. “When they put the curtain down so I could see him, and it was just an awesome moment. They had told me he may not cry much, but he had a good, strong cry – it was absolutely wonderful.”
Audrey was up walking two hours after delivery and eager to start breastfeeding and getting to know her son, who had to spend a week in the NICU. “We were so ready to bond with him,” she said. “We got him home, and spent time just holding him and staring at him.”
Since then, Lawson has been a joy – a good sleeper and eater who loves to snuggle and is fast adjusting to life with his parents and brothers, Clayton, 11, and Holt, 7. “They love him. They want to help more than we let them,” Audrey laughed. “Until his immune system gets stronger, we’re making them wear masks and gowns to hold him. They’ve been really great with him.”
It’s a happy ending to a journey that, while challenging, left Audrey grateful.
“It was weird not having my family there as cheerleaders, but Regional One Health became part of our family, and that helped more than anything,” she said. “We still had that support system – they had been on this ride with us from the beginning, and Dr. Houser went out of her way to understand what I was going through and make me feel at ease.
“She is phenomenal, and we wouldn’t have gotten here without her.”
Dr. Houser, however, said it’s her patient who deserves the praise. “Audrey made it easy,” she said. “She went to an extraordinary amount of effort and was dedicated to doing whatever she could to get her baby here safely. She was a joy to take care of!”