Lights for Life NICU – Sam Sloan

Thursday, November 18, 2010  •  Patient Stories

LFLlogoAll at once, things went from bad to catastrophic for Julie Sloan

Julie was 28 weeks pregnant with her second child when she developed an infection in her leg. What was diagnosed as “strep” virus soon turned into a flesh-eating disease causing Julie’s body to go into toxic shock.

To make matters worse, after Julie arrived at the Lakeland Regional Medical Center, she went into labor. “I was so sick. I didn’t know what was going on.” A son, Sam, was born and immediately taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

From this point on, both mother and son struggled for their lives.

After delivering Sam, Julie was eventually moved to critical care. She experienced kidney failure and was put in a medical coma. At one point, doctors gave Julie only 48 hours to live. However, she pulled through, enduring multiple surgeries to treat her leg.

Baby Sam, in the mean time, was also fighting. He was on oxygen for many days and had a feeding tube. “He was so little and sick,” Julie recalls, although she doesn’t remember much from the first two weeks.

Julie’s husband, Philip, was having an equally rough time. At the time of this tragedy, Philip was just starting a new job. He was left to care for their 2-year-old son Jonathan and his critically ill wife and newborn. According to Julie, “He’d go to the NICU in middle of the night. The nurses were amazing up there. Every time he went, someone talked with him and helped ease his mind.” He admits that if it wasn’t for how reassuring they were, he probably would have had a nervous breakdown.”

Initially, the nurses visited Julie and sent pictures of Sam up to her hospital room. The first few times Julie went to see Sam, she went in her hospital bed – a difficult task given the size and design of the NICU. “The nurses would clear the machines and equipment out so that they could wheel me in to see him,” she says. “They were so sweet. One tended to Sam, and one tended to me.”

For the next 10 weeks, Julie was able to visit Sam in a wheel chair with her leg extended. Again, the nurses were constantly rearranging the room for her. “I can’t even put into words how wonderful they were,” she says.

One nurse, Fawn Burrow, fondly remembers caring for Julie and Sam. In fact, she still stays involved with the Sloan family, and even gave baby Sam his first haircut on his first birthday.

According to Kathey Milligan, LRMC NICU nurse, “Having a critically ill baby can shred a family.” With this in mind, LRMC is working toward making this experience less stressful.

In approximately three years, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is slated for a relocation and transformation. This presents a great opportunity to craft a new unit that will transform the space from one large room to a design that provides privacy for each family.

Julie notes, “You are so emotional, you feel like you’ll break at any time when you visit. You don’t want other people to see you like that.” In addition she says, “You’ve got babies all around you. It’s easy to look over and either see a baby thriving more than yours or a baby not doing as well as yours, and you think, ‘Is that going to happen to my child?’”

The LRMC Foundation is proud to be supporting the relocation of our NICU by raising more than $450,000 to purchase state-of-the-art Giraffe Omnibeds for each patient area and provide enhancements and other amenities for families to reduce stress and improve infant/parent interaction.