Expecting — With No Expectation of a NICU Stay

A routine trip from Fort Polk, Louisiana to Fort Worth, Texas in September 2015 turned quite memorable for Oceanna Hunsaker and her husband Justin. The plan was to make a quick visit to see family in the area before the arrival of the couple’s second child. But Justin Hunsaker Jr. had a different idea.

At 38 gestational weeks, Oceanna began having sizable contractions. She ended up at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. Two days later baby Justin made his entrance, weighing in at 6 pounds and 14.8 ounces. Everything seemed to be going as expected until the newborn began experiencing breathing problems several hours after delivery. He was promptly admitted to the hospital’s Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to be treated for pulmonary hypertension, pneumonia and a pulmonary hemorrhage.

“We were not expecting an extended stay,” Oceanna said. “My husband was stationed at Fort Polk and his military leave was only for a few days. When we found out our baby was going to be in the NICU for longer than a week, Justin had to let his boss know. One of the doctors wrote a letter explaining what was going on so his leave could be extended.”

At the time, it wasn’t clear as to what had caused all of baby Justin’s health problems.  Since Oceanna physician was in Fort Polk, the employees at Texas Health Fort Worth had no information of her being positive for group B streptococcus.

Group B strep is a common bacterium often carried in the intestines or lower genital tract. Although it is usually harmless in adults, the disease can cause serious illness in babies. To help protect a newborn from infection, a pregnant woman who tests positive for group B strep in pregnancy will typically receive antibiotics during labor to kill the bacteria in the body.

Baby Justin ended up spending 17 days in the NICU. During that time, the nurses and the physicians on the medical staff worked to make sure the Hunsakers knew everything that was happening with Justin’s treatment plan and subsequent progress.

“When we were scared and didn’t understand what was going on, the nurses and doctors made us feel as comfortable as possible,” Oceanna added. “Little Justin had oxygen and a CPAP for breathing. I remember Ali, one of the nurses, and Debbie, the respiratory therapist, really making an impact for us. They answered our questions and helped us through the unknowns. When it was finally time for us to leave the hospital, they told us we should call if there was ever a problem. For this, we are forever grateful.”

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