Caroline Kuehn, who turned 1 year old last month, took in the happy faces that surrounded her, faces of the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center doctors, nurses and staff who were overjoyed to see Caroline more than a year after she was delivered five weeks early, and her mother was airlifted to Shock Trauma with severe illnesses she developed after the delivery.
Caroline, whose family lives in Forest Hill, visited the Bel Air hospital Thursday afternoon with her mother, Stefanie, who has since recovered, her father, Eric, and maternal grandparents, Chris and Shirley Ogle, also of Forest Hill. The family presented a check for $1,600, made out to the Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation, which can be used to purchase a rocking chair for new moms and babies receiving care at the UCMC Family Birthplace & Children’s Center.
“It’s the least that we can do, considering how much they took care of Caroline and myself, and we wanted to pay it forward to the other moms that might use the nursery,” Stefanie Kuehn, 35, said.
Caroline is Eric and Stefanie’s first child. She was due in late October of 2018, but the parents and medical staff anticipated an early delivery and scheduled a Caesarean section operation for Sept. 24, 2018, because Stefanie had developed the condition vasa previa during pregnancy.
Stefanie came to the emergency room at Upper Chesapeake on Sept. 22, though, with a migraine headache, nausea and high blood pressure. Her obstetrician, Dr. Shari L. Sopher, determined an emergency C-section was needed.
The surgery was successful, and Caroline weighed 3 pounds, 15 ounces when she was delivered and later brought to the Special Care Nursery within the Family Birthplace.
“She was tiny; she was very tiny,” nurse Dawn Henderson recalled.
Babies come to the Special Care Nursery if they are delivered at 34 weeks or sooner, or if they have other health issues such as respiratory problems, a suspected infection, low blood sugar, even withdrawal from drugs, according to Henderson.
The Kuehns reunited Thursday with Henderson, who spent her 12-hour shifts caring for Caroline during the five days the baby spent in the nursery, as well as interacting with the child’s family members.
“It’s great to see you doing so well,” Henderson said as she hugged Stefanie.
The Kuehns also met up with Sopher and other nurses on hand at UCMC last fall when Stefanie arrived at the hospital and during the surgery, which was performed by Sopher and her fellow OB-GYN, Dr. Chanan Levy.
“I said, ‘Please don’t leave me,’” Stefanie recalled telling triage nurse Katie Byard, who cared for Stefanie when she arrived at the ER and in the operating room.
The medical staff was with Stefanie when she developed serious illnesses — preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome — hours after Caroline was born.
Stefanie’s liver and kidneys started to fail, and she was airlifted to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore the night of Sept. 22.
Nurse Sarah Wall took over from Byard and was with Stefanie after the delivery, until she was flown out from Upper Chesapeake. Caroline beamed Thursday as her father held her and she played with Wall’s hospital identification tags.
Stefanie said the UCMC nurses were “very comforting, and they have such great bedside manners — it makes you feel much more relaxed.”
She spent six days in Shock Trauma, undergoing dialysis and blood transfusions, “and just ongoing monitoring until the body just rebounded on its own,” Stefanie recalled.
Eric, 38 said Caroline was “lucky, good to go from the beginning,” in terms of her health. He kept Stefanie up to date on their daughter via FaceTime video calls and photos, as well as in-person visits, while she was in the trauma center.
Henderson noted Caroline has “a very supportive, loving family,” and said the current condition of the baby and her mother is desired outcome for patients who visit the Family Birthplace.
“To see a happy, healthy mom and baby, it’s the greatest reward,” she said.
Shirley Ogle, Stefanie’s mother, held Caroline as the baby smiled, babbled and squirmed in her arms.
“She’s so much fun, Caroline,” Ogle said of her first grandchild. “And, Stef’s come a long way.”
Ogle recalled experiencing “feelings of joy” after Caroline was born, as she was “healthy as could be” despite being “so little, so small.” She said it was a shock when Stefanie became sick that night, though.
“It’s wonderful — prayers were answered,” Ogle said when asked her thoughts on her daughter and granddaughter’s current conditions. She and her husband care for Caroline about once a week and other times as needed.
“She’s just so much fun, so much fun, getting spoiled rotten,” Ogle said.
Stefanie said reuniting with the hospital staff a year later was “definitely emotional; it’s amazing at the same time.”
“It has created lifelong friendships, and we hope to continue giving back to the hospital every year and helping out as much as we can,” she said.