Coming home to Winneshiek Medical Center.

Jennifer Self
Jennifer Self and newborn, Keegan

“We are blessed to be coming home,” says new mother Jennifer Self.  Such a simple statement sums up the exceptional beginning-of-life story of the Decorah family’s first child, Keegan.

With a complication–free pregnancy, Jennifer and her husband, Brooke, had no reason to believe the birth would bring anything unexpected.  However, when Jennifer’s water broke four weeks ahead of schedule, the couple quickly changed their focus to an early birth of their baby.

Emily Young Johnson, certified nurse midwife at Winneshiek Medical Center Clinic, was with Jennifer and Brooke through the entire labor and delivery.  She says, “Jennifer safely delivered her baby, but with his prematurity, we were very watchful.”  Emily contacted Tyler Menke, M.D. and Sarah Wymer, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System family medicine physicians at Winneshiek Medical Center to be on stand-by if the baby needed extra attention.

Winneshiek Medical Center welcomes over 200 newborns every year using the combined expertise of a local team of medical professionals, including family medicine physicians, surgeons, a midwife, nurse anesthetists, specially trained obstetric nurses, lactation consultants and car seat technicians.  For high-risk births, families work with their local obstetrical care provider alongside specialists in larger medical facilities equipped to handle possible complications.

Such was the case for Jennifer and Brooke.  Keegan, born at 5 pounds, 3 ounces, did not pass the “car seat test” to go home.  “Newborns must be able to sit in a car seat for at least one hour without any complications,” says Dr. Wymer.  “Since Keegan was so small, we wanted to be sure he was ready to leave 24-hour medical care.”  While in the car seat, Keegan stopped breathing for more than 20 seconds.  Dr. Wymer explains, “When newborns, especially if they are premature, do not take a breath for more than 20 seconds, it is called apnea of prematurity or AOP.”  Because of AOP, Keegan and his mother remained at Winneshiek Medical Center, and his doctors began collaborating with neonatologists at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Over the next week, Keegan experienced sporadic episodes of AOP and the medical team made the decision transfer him to Mayo Clinic.  “The most emotional moment of our stay, other than the actual birth, was watching the flight paramedics prepare Keegan for air transfer to Mayo.  The presence of the helicopter and its crew heightened my feelings of urgency.  Since Keegan was so small, they didn’t cut any corners on his care – it was overwhelming to watch our son leave in a helicopter, but I knew he was in good hands,” says Jennifer.

Another week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Mayo Clinic was what Keegan needed to overcome AOP.  “Keegan grew out of AOP at Mayo under the specialized care of NICU staff.  Keegan just needed a little more time to develop, and the doctors wanted to monitor him to make sure he was strong enough to go home,” says Jennifer.

After ten days at Winneshiek Medical Center and another seven at Mayo Clinic, the family returned to their Decorah home.  Brooke says, “So much of our energy went into Keegan at the beginning of his life; it is good to be settling into our routine as a family.”

When the family returned to the Winneshiek Medical Center Obstetrics Department for follow-up care, both Jennifer and Brooke were struck by the familiarity and comfort they felt when walking through the doors.  Jennifer says, “Our stay at Winneshiek Medical Center was incredible.  We had gotten to know each of the OB nurses and appreciated every one of them for their individual talents, nursing styles and compassion.  They had cared for our entire family and had brought us through the most exciting, yet difficult time in our lives.  Our care in Rochester was wonderful, but here at Winneshiek Medical Center, we feel like we’re home.”

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