Yesterday, the faculty, staff, and hundreds of volunteers of C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital carefully moved nearly 200 patients from the old hospitals to our state-of-the-art new facility. If there’s one thing that became obvious from the move, though, it’s that the people here are what truly makes The Michigan Difference. Within moments of a floor being emptied of its patients, families and staff – even though there were still chairs, toys and games left behind for now – The Michigan Difference was gone, all the people having been whisked over to their new home. Today we bring you one more “farewell to the old Mott” story from a parent of two “little victors.” Her story is just another demonstration of how – even though we’re proud of our shiny new building, it’s the people that work there that make The Difference.
Little Things Mean Everything
By Laura Hurst, mom to Alex and Levi Hurst Gugino, happy and healthy 2-year-old Little Victors
My family’s story starts 11 years before my children were born. I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan, studying social work. I did my internship at the University of Michigan, during which time I spent three weeks in the NICU. I saw impossibly small babies born very premature and very sick. I witnessed doctors, nurses, and staff perform miracles and saw the tiniest of babies thrive against all odds.
When my three weeks in the NICU were over, I moved on, graduated, got a job, and lived my life. I really didn’t think much more about that experience until my husband and I started trying to have children. After years of infertility treatments and miscarriage, I finally became pregnant with twins. I had an inexplicably strong feeling that I had to have these babies at U of M. I thought back to the extraordinary staff and technology that I had seen in the NICU at Mott years before and just knew that it was the best place to be. The University of Michigan has an excellent reputation, so it wouldn’t seem unusual for me to want to have my babies there, except that my husband and I were living in San Francisco, California at the time. After many discussions, we decided that we would move to Ann Arbor when this pregnancy became viable (at 24 weeks gestation).
As it turns out, I was right to follow my intuition. Four days after getting off a plane from California to Michigan in the middle of January, I went into preterm labor. My contractions were strong and fast-coming two minutes apart. The doctors at U of M were able to stop my contractions and I went on bedrest. I was back at 27 weeks with another episode and at 29 weeks, my water broke. My baby boys were coming.
The doctors explained that I needed a c-section immediately. They explained that there would be two medical teams waiting to take the babies into another room to stabilize them and then take them to the NICU. They told me that I would not see them after they were born.
The surgery began and as the doctor pulled out the first baby, he told me to look up. He held the baby up so I could see him. It was only for a split second before he handed him off to the medical team, but I saw him. He held the second baby up so I could see him too. They were very tiny and purple, but I saw them. I saw them. I will never, ever forget that moment as long as I live.
It was a small gesture, it took less than a few seconds, but in those moments, I knew we weren’t just another case. I knew that the doctor was trying to do everything in his power to make this terrifying experience just a bit easier. It was a moment of humanity and compassion.
After the surgery, I was sent to a general care floor to recover. My babies were intubated and sent to the NICU. The NICU staff gave me a picture of my babies to look at because I couldn’t be with them. I showed everyone who walked in the room the pictures of my two pound, intubated babies. If you’ve never seen a premature baby before, “adorable” is not the first word that comes to mind when you see them. My babies were painfully skinny. You could see their bones through their skin, they were on ventilators and had wires and tubes sticking out all over. I showed every nurse on every shift change pictures of my babies. All the nurses made such a fuss about how cute my babies were, how adorable they were, how they looked just like my husband and me. They recognized that I was a new mom and wanted to show my babies off just like every other new mom.
No one could help that my babies came way too early, that this was not the birth experience that I wanted. No one could help that my babies were hooked up to ventilators and fighting for their little lives in the NICU. But what they could control and help, they did. There were hundreds of moments like these. Most of the time, I don’t even think the staff recognized what they were doing. When someone said a kind word, recognized and connected with the humanity of our situation, showed us little moments of kindness and compassion, we knew were being cared for not as another case, but like family. It was these little moments of connection that helped send the message that we are all on the same team. Together, we, parents, doctors, nurses, and staff all pulled for these little babies. We cheered on their every breath, stood together at every setback. We did this together.
To our family, the University of Michigan’s Women’s Hospital and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is not just a place of extraordinary medicine, its a place of extraordinary people.
Thank you, Laura, for sharing your story! To all who have been celebrating with us and watching our progress the last few days (and years!), thank you! You are part of our Michigan Difference, too!