I wanted to find a hospital that had doctors and midwives, and provided options for birth plans. I also wanted a fully equipped medical center, which is what I ended up needing. I had every medical intervention possible.
Ashley Windle had been having a headache in her 34th week of pregnancy, but the pain was not enough to worry her. Then one April morning in 2014 her headache became severe and persistent. Ashley, a Manhattan-based professional violinist, and her husband, Andrew Gurman, knew they needed medical assistance and headed north in their car to their birthing center of choice: NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor, NY, part of the NewYork-Presbyterian health system.
Ashley says she expected to hear news that she had a headache because she needed rest. Instead, "Upon arrival to the hospital, Ashley was gravely ill," recalls Dr. Laura Mieszerski, an OB/GYN at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital.
As evidenced by her lab results, elevated blood pressure and impending renal failure, Ashley was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia, a serious blood pressure disorder that can affect all organs in a woman's body. It can lead to eclampsia (seizures) or HELLP syndrome, a medical emergency where red blood cells are destroyed, blood clotting is impaired and the liver may bleed internally, leading to death.
"I thought her chances of having a successful vaginal delivery were very low and her labor would be long, so I made the decision to deliver the baby immediately via Cesarean section. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery. And I felt the risks of preeclampsia outweighed the risks of prematurity," says Dr. Mieszerski, who was assisted by Theresa Wang, CNM.
Ashley and Andrew's son, Carter, arrived in the world weighing 3 pounds, 8 ounces, and was immediately incubated in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital. "Ashley was given a dose of steroids before delivery to help Carter's lungs mature. Carter weighed only about three-and-a-half pounds, but was in fairly good condition, other than having some respiratory difficulties common to premature babies," says Dr. Mieszerski.
Ashley remembers she was in no shape to meet her baby son and did not get to see him for 29 hours. "I was recovering from kidney failure and high blood pressure, but I saw him the next day and even though it was an extraordinary set of circumstances, everyone made an effort to make it seem normal for me."
Ashley recounts that in addition to experiencing excellent clinical care for both herself and her son, she realized how much compassion, as well as enthusiasm, was the norm for the maternity nursing staff at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital.
"Every time I visited the NICU, all the nurses would say, 'Here's Mom!' Or they would tell me 'He did a great job eating!' You know, funny little stories that made my husband and I feel that they really knew our baby," Ashley recalls. "When I would see the NICU nurses hold the babies, I knew they were doing the same for Carter when I wasn't there. They were taking care of all the newborns for their mothers, like a mother would want."
Carter came home from the hospital on the 9th of May, 16 days after his birth, and just in time for Mother's Day. Carter left the hospital weighing 4 pounds, 4 ounces — ready for his parents' full-time care — and Ashley says Carter is now a happy and active toddler.
Windle continues to express her gratitude to the hospital and offers support to other mothers by creating gift bags and personally delivering them in time for Mother's Day and the holidays.
"They're nothing fancy," Ashley says of the bags, which contain a notebook and a pen to write down memories, tissues, a chapstick, some gum and chocolates. She adds, "They're just something from one mom who's been there and gone through it to another mom, and the bags let the moms know they are not alone and their baby is in great hands."