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May 1, 2023

Coastal Carolina NICU: Delivering extra special care to premature babies and their families

Cheryl Ricer

Photography By

Special to CH2/CB2 Magazine
A little over a year ago, Lowcountry expectant parents gained a valuable resource at Coastal Carolina Hospital, where there is now a three-bassinet Level 2 Special Care Nursery to complement maternity services. The nursery can care for preterm infants from 32 weeks’ gestation to term and weighing 3 lbs., 3 oz. or more, with the […]

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A little over a year ago, Lowcountry expectant parents gained a valuable resource at Coastal Carolina Hospital, where there is now a three-bassinet Level 2 Special Care Nursery to complement maternity services. The nursery can care for preterm infants from 32 weeks’ gestation to term and weighing 3 lbs., 3 oz. or more, with the professionalism of a neonatologist, neonatal nurse practitioners, Level II registered nurses, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists and lactation consultants.

“Together, this team works with obstetricians and pediatricians to provide comprehensive advanced care for those patients who need extra support in their first days of life,” said Dr. Tung Giep, neonatologist and medical director of the nursery.

Joel C. Taylor, CEO of Hilton Head Regional Healthcare, which consists of Hilton Head Hospital and Coastal Carolina Hospital, said, “Adding a Level 2 Special Care Nursery is a direct response to the community’s growing need for advanced care for moms and babies. The nursery supports the hospital’s other maternity and infant-focused services and provides an additional point in the continuum of care.”

No one can attest to the support of the staff at the Coastal Carolina NICU better than Morgan and Corey Herndon, who recently welcomed (prematurely) their baby daughter, Roux.

“We married in December 2021, and we knew we wanted to start our family right away,” Morgan said. “I had never been pregnant previously, so I didn’t really know what to expect.”

While Morgan was sick her first trimester, during the second trimester, things seemed to level out. But the third trimester, Morgan felt as though she was going backwards. She had more pain and days where she felt “off,” but there were never any red flags about preeclampsia, a condition in pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure, sometimes with fluid retention and proteinuria (the presence of abnormal quantities of protein in the urine, which may indicate damage to the kidneys). Her blood pressure was always within normal range at her checkups, until one day about 33 weeks into the pregnancy. 

“I started to swell,” Morgan said. “Because I’m a hairdresser and I own a salon, I’m on my feet all day, so both my doctor and I attributed the swelling to that.”

Soon, however, she went to bed not feeling well. The next morning, when nothing had changed, she stayed on the couch all day and napped. At one point, she awakened startled. When Corey took her blood pressure, it was 165/110, so they knew something was wrong. Corey immediately called Morgan’s sister, Erica, who just happens to be a NICU nurse at Coastal.

“When Corey called, I focused on calming Morgan down,” Erica said. “I questioned Corey about her blood pressure, and because she was so sick, I recommended that they immediately come to the hospital. I also called the hospital and made sure everything was ready for Morgan to go to the triage as soon as they arrived.”

Probably equally important was that Erica, though she was not scheduled to work, stayed at the hospital, sleeping in the call room, to be there for her sister.

“We got her settled, and they drew labs, which were not so great, and started her on magnesium,” Erica said. “Her blood pressure was very high, so they decided to keep her for 24 hours for observation. They also began administering steroids that would strengthen the baby’s lungs in the instance she was born early.”

When it was deemed necessary to induce labor, the doctor explained all the possible scenarios, and let Morgan and Corey know that, without a doubt, they would not be leaving the hospital without a baby.

“The doctor explained everything so well that I truly wasn’t scared at all,” Morgan said. “Everyone was very understanding and kind, and to be honest, I never realized how sick I really was.”

While the Coastal Carolina Hospital opened in Hardeeville nine years ago, the NICU is still celebrating its one-year anniversary. Its success stories have a lot to do with the same kind of care that Morgan experienced there.

“We are the only Level 2 NICU facility serving the Bluffton and Hilton Head communities,” Erica said. “Parents no longer must travel to Savannah to receive NICU care. And though our unit is only a year old, everyone on staff here has experience—both the nurses and the neo-nurse practitioners. We all came here from different and bigger hospitals around our region, each bringing a wealth of knowledge with us. We have molded our ideas and experiences into Coastal Carolina NICU to make this facility one of the very best anywhere around.”

Being a smaller facility offers advantages which include spending more time with parents and providing more one-on-one care for the smallest patients. A neo-natal nurse practitioner is on call 24 hours a day, and the staff holds telemedicine rounds with a neonatologist from MUSC every day. Each family at the Coastal Carolina NICU can visit privately with the doctor every day.

As for Morgan and Corey? Morgan successfully delivered baby girl, Roux, naturally at 34 weeks and 2 days with no complications. Roux weighed 4 lbs. 13 oz. and was 18” long.

“I went through an easy labor,” Morgan said. “I pushed five times, and Roux came out screaming, very healthy, and breathing on her own.”

Baby Roux was in NICU for 10 days. Importantly, while Morgan was in post-partum, she could see her daughter’s bed and hold her newborn daughter, which is a big deal. Morgan attributes her quick recovery to the fact that she had her daughter nearby, and her mind was at ease as a result.

“We were able to stay in the hospital with her,” Morgan said. “We didn’t have to leave and go home every day. Being that Roux is my first baby, and because postpartum is so hard anyway, and the fact she was in NICU hooked up to machines, well … it was a lot. But if I wanted to get up at four in the morning and hold her, they let me. The staff became our family, and most importantly, they loved our little girl.” 

Other Coastal Carolina maternity services include 24/7 coverage by a laborist—a certified OB/GYN dedicated to delivering babies and responding to obstetrical and gynecological emergencies in the hospital; 24-hour anesthesia coverage; a maternity navigator; natural birthing process support; and a suite reserved for Cesarean deliveries. The hospital also features Couplet Care bassinets, which provide new mothers a safe, comfortable way to reach, soothe, and care for their newborn independently.

To learn more about Coastal Carolina, please visit hiltonheadregional.com.

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