Love conquers all

How Novant Health nurses saved a mother and son

“Remarkable care is not just providing physical care – it’s also providing the emotional care. That was the common theme we picked up from these nurses, providers and the Novant Health family. They genuinely care.” – Jessica Love

Patients: Jessica Love, mother; Shepherd Love, son

Hometown: Belmont, North Carolina

Background: Jessica Love was 25 weeks pregnant when, one Friday night, she started feeling warm while relaxing on the couch. She noticed her ankles were swelling. She grew increasingly concerned, so she called the Novant Health Rankin OB/GYN office where she regularly saw her obstetrician, Victoria Lore, MD. After speaking with the after-hours hotline nurse, Jessica sought medical attention at a local emergency room immediately.

Jessica and her husband expected the trip to be short-lived, but that was not the case. Her blood pressure was extremely high, and her kidneys were failing tests. She had severe preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication.

Suddenly, everything changed: The next morning, Jessica was transported by ambulance to Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. There, in a labor and delivery room, Novant Health team members worked to manage her blood pressure and keep her and her baby safe.

The team monitored Jessica for a few days, when suddenly she was coughing and struggling to breathe. Fluid had entered her lungs.

“I had gained about 35 pounds of fluid in 10 days, when up until that point, I had only gained about 10 pounds throughout pregnancy,” Jessica said. “Everything was so swollen that I couldn’t straighten or bend my arms or walk without assistance.”

Within minutes, Jessica was in an operating room. The only choice was to deliver her baby.

Shepherd’s journey: When Jessica’s condition necessitated delivery, a neonatologist came to speak with her and her husband, since Jessica hadn’t yet carried to full-term.

“He was super positive and really upbeat,” Jessica said. “He said, ‘I’m just so glad you made it 25 weeks.’ He was really a godsend.”

Jessica underwent an emergency C-section, and her son, Shepherd, was born on Oct. 20, 2020. He was 1 pound and 9 ounces. He was monitored in the neonatal intensive care unit at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital while Jessica recuperated.

Knowing intuitively that being separated from a baby isn’t easy, Jessica’s nurse focused on bringing words of encouragement.

“She said, ‘Hey, I was the one who helped deliver your baby,’” Jessica recalled. “‘He is doing really well.’ She let me know everything was going to be OK.”

Shepherd was intubated over the next few days, a difficult circumstance for any new mother. Dawn Webster, a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), helped Jessica manage complex emotions – shock, anger and sadness – by focusing on the present moment. Jessica was grateful for the perspective.

“She just made everything better,” Jessica said. “She was verbally holding our hands the whole time.”

A nickname is born: Given Shepherd was born premature, he needed time to heal and gain strength. While he was in the NICU, Jessica grew close to nurse practitioner Jamie Tyo.

“We knew Shepherd was in good hands,” Jessica said. “We understood her, she understood us. She patiently answered every single question.”

In fact, it was Tyo who first called Shepherd by his eventual nickname, “Sheppie.”

“She said it one time, and I did a double take,” Jessica said. “I liked it, and I started calling him that from then on.”

Santa’s little helpers: Both Jessica and her husband contracted COVID-19 right before Christmas 2020, so they were unable to come to the NICU for more than 10 days. Forced to self-isolate, they were unable to spend time with Shepherd on his first Christmas.

But Novant Health team members sprang into action. One of their then-nurses (now nurse practitioner), Christy Paschal, dressed Shepherd up in Christmas outfits, including a Santa costume, and sent the parents over 30 photos.

“We were really grateful for that because we knew he was safe and receiving extra care when, as his parents, we couldn’t be there,” Jessica said.

The impact: After 100 days in the NICU, Shepherd was healthy enough to come home on Jan. 29, 2021. Today, he’s doing remarkably well. He’s gaining weight, and he’s actually advanced for his age, with no signs of complications.

Jessica feels blessed for her experience at Hemby Children’s Hospital. She and her husband made a donation to honor the nurses who cared for her and their son. She believes these nurses exemplify the human element Novant Health is known for.

“Remarkable care is not just providing the physical care – it’s also providing the emotional care,” Jessica said. “That was the common theme we picked up from these nurses, providers and the Novant Health family. They genuinely care.”

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