Via Christi Hospital NICU

Willa's Care Team

 Via Christi NICU
 Via Christi Hospital on St. Teresa
 Via Christi NewLife Center

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Helped by full complement of OB care, Hall family finally brings baby Willa home

Living in Anthony, Kansas — a small town whose hospital doesn’t offer maternity services — Tavish and Mitchell “Mitch” Hall knew they would need to come to Wichita for their prenatal and hospital care.

After reviewing their options, they told obstetrician Janey Maki, MD, that they wanted to deliver the twins they were expecting in January at Via Christi Hospital on St. Teresa.

“The west location was so convenient for us,” says Mitch, who grew up in Anthony, about 60 miles southwest of Wichita.

As it turned out, the west Wichita hospital also may have been a lifesaver for their daughter, who was born three months early.

And while the Halls' care started there, the family ultimately would benefit from the full complement of Via Christi's maternity services before bringing home their daughter, Willa.

"It was a long journey," says Tavish. “But the doctors — Dr. Maki, Dr. Wolfe and all the neonatologists — and all the nurses were just amazing.”

Mitch agrees, noting that “there wasn’t one we didn’t have full faith in.”

Taking the long way home

The Halls made regular trips from Anthony to Via Christi Clinic to see Maki, whose office is in the medical office building connected to Via Christi’s west Wichita hospital.

After their son perished in the womb at 22 weeks, the Halls began seeing Michael Wolfe, MD, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Via Christi Clinic, as well as making weekly visits to see Maki.

At 26 weeks, Wolfe admitted Tavish to the hospital on St. Teresa for overnight observation. A few days later, the Halls went to see Maki for their regularly scheduled Oct. 4 prenatal visit.

“I left my work computer on and told my assistant I’d be back in a few hours,” says Mitch, a vice president for Kanza Bank in Anthony.

Instead, Maki, seeing that Tavish was in early labor, immediately admitted her to the hospital on St. Teresa so she could be assessed and stabilized and readied for transport to the NewLife Center at Via Christi Hospital on Harry, which has a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit staffed and equipped to care for sick and premature newborns.

Less than two hours later, the Halls welcomed their 12-inch, 1-pound, 6-ounce daughter, Willa. They also said farewell to her brother, William, who was baptized and later buried at a small family ceremony.

“Throughout the whole process, the staff kept us very well-informed of what was happening and helped keep us calm,” says Mitch, adding that  their conversation the week before with the NICU's medical director, Mohammed Ansari, MD, also helped.

“We really appreciated him making a point to visit us and give us a heads-up on what to expect, the risks of preterm labor and how they would monitor our baby,” Mitch says.

With the help of the NICU team, Willa — so fragile and tiny that her arms were about the size of her mother’s index finger when she was born — made good progress day by day and week by week.

“From day one, she was a true fighter,” says Tavish.

Because the Halls were saving leave time from work for when Willa came home, they supplemented their almost daily visits with frequent phone calls to the unit for updates.

“Everybody did an excellent job of keeping us informed,” says Tavish, a certified public accountant.

Knowing that Willa’s parents couldn’t always be there, the nursing staff personalized her area, hanging up pictures of milestone events, such as celebrating her first Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas and reaching each pound mark.

"We try to personalize every baby’s area to recreate what parents would be doing at home," says Becky Hopper, one of the specially trained nurses who serve in the NICU. “It’s nice to have those pictures later on to record their story from the beginning.”

There’s no place like home

But while Willa demonstrated the consistent weight gain needed to be ready to go home with her parents, she continued to struggle with taking all her feedings by breast or by bottle. So staff suggested that the Halls spend a couple of nights rooming in with Willa at the hospital, allowing mother and baby to develop their own feeding rhythm.

The feeding tube was removed and the Hall family moved into one of the NewLife Center’s mother-and-baby suites, while they made sure that Willa could take all feedings by mouth.

"That was our last big feat to get to go home," says Tavish.

On Jan. 20, 11 days after their original due date, the Halls took their 6-pound, 13-ounce daughter home — and began the next leg of their journey.

“Some nights Willa gets up every two hours to eat, other nights she gets up every four hours to eat, and then others she has no desire to sleep and all she wants to do is look around, kick and suck on her binky,” Tavish wrote in her blog after their first two weeks at home.

“I wouldn't trade the sleepless nights for anything.”