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ER Nurse Becomes a Patient

Amber Lockhart had happily worked for years as a nurse in Providence Holy Cross Medical Center’s Emergency Department. She had a friendly relationship with caregivers from the hospital’s other departments, but she did not work closely with them and did not expect to do so. That all changed during her pregnancy with her second child.

Thirty-two weeks into her pregnancy, Amber woke up in the middle of the night, in pain and bleeding. She went straight to Providence Holy Cross. Her colleagues swiftly diagnosed her with placenta abruption and the doctors told her that she would need to immediately undergo an emergency C-section.

As soon as she agreed, Amber’s colleagues rushed her to surgery and intubated her. The surgeons performed a swift and flawless C-section and by the time Amber woke up her son Levi had been transferred to Providence Holy Cross’s Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

“It was all new to me,” Amber said. “I was an ER nurse—I had no idea of the level of care that goes on in the NICU.”

When he first arrived in the NICU, Levi was so premature that he was not able to digest food. Amber remembers first seeing her son, tiny, hooked up to an IV and cocooned within a specialized incubator bed. She was not able to hold him. “It was incredibly hard…I couldn’t be a mother to my daughter at home and I also couldn’t give care to my newborn. Coming after the delivery, it was really emotional chaos.”

Amber said that in the following weeks, as she fought exhaustion and commuted from her home to Holy Cross each day, the NICU’s caregivers were instrumental in helping her cope. “They were amazing,” she said. Early on, when one of the NICU nurses noticed a slight abnormality in Levi’s abdominal development, the NICU doctors put him on antibiotics to prevent a potential infection of necrotizing enterocolitis (an infection of the intestinal walls common among preemies). Amber was terrified, but the NICU caregivers assured her that this was a precautionary measure and ultimately Levi never got sick.

As Levi grew, Amber was finally able to hold him, albeit cautiously. “I was afraid to change his diaper at first, he was still so small and fragile,” she said. But the NICU nurses patiently coached Amber on how to feed and care for Levi, even giving her advice on a healthy diet that would ensure he responded well to breast milk.

In the end, Levi left the NICU in perfect health. Today, he is a happy and rambunctious toddler who weighs only one pound less than his older sister. For all of this, Amber and her family remain incredibly grateful to her colleagues down the hall, in the Providence Holy Cross NICU.

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Call: 818-496-4600
Address: 15031 Rinaldi St., Mission Hills, CA 91345
Email: phcfoundation@providence.org

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