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One Mother’s Journey to the Brink and Back Again

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Many lives have been saved and families forever changed thanks in part to the generous support of our donors.

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A dedicated and compassionate caregiver at St. Joseph Hospital for decades, Melvin Schwartz and his wife demonstrated their friendship and support for the Hospital by establishing a legacy through a generous charitable planned gift.”

One Mother’s Journey to the Brink and Back Again

Carolina Eastwood had just entered her third trimester in December 2016 when she began experiencing flu-like symptoms. But she soon began to realize she did not have a simple virus. After driving herself to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, where her OB-GYN was based, Carolina collapsed on her way to the emergency room.

Providence Saint Joseph’s caregivers responded immediately with multiple interventions while running diagnostic tests that showed Carolina had fluid in her lungs, her heart was only working at 32% capacity and she was rapidly deteriorating into sepsis. Further tests revealed the source of this crisis—a particularly severe Staphylococcus Aureus bacterial infection.

A collaborative task force of physicians convened at Carolina’s bedside, including a neonatologist, a pulmonologist, a cardiologist, a hematologist, an obstetrician, a perinatal allergist and an infectious disease specialist. The doctors informed Carolina that her condition was critical. The fluid in her lungs and heart was building. She was increasingly at risk of septic shock and the risks to her daughter’s life were increasing in kind.

Her medical team unanimously believed that the best course of action was an emergency C-section to deliver Carolina’s baby. But, given the gravity of her condition, the doctors told Carolina that there was a chance that neither she nor her baby daughter would survive.

At 29 weeks, the baby was just barely old enough to be treated in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). At that point in gestation, infants are highly vulnerable. They only weigh a few pounds, are frequently subject to infection and cannot survive without highly-specialized, cutting-edge medical care. But Providence Saint Joseph has a Level III NICU that offers precisely that kind of exceptional, advanced treatment for the youngest and most critical cases of premature birth.

The physicians felt that caring for the baby in the NICU was better than leaving the baby in the womb; Carolina was at risk of sudden cardiac arrest that would end her baby’s life as well as her own. Delivering the baby would remove it from potential harm and then allow the medical team to aggressively treat Carolina’s underlying infection.

Carolina was planning to be a single mother. She knew how to take care of herself and manage her emotions. She quickly decided to trust her doctors and choose the C-section, followed by a medically-induced coma and powerful antibiotics to treat the infection.

Fortunately, the C-section was a complete success and Carolina’s daughter London was healthy and resting comfortably in the NICU a day later.

Carolina’s condition, however, was nowhere near as stable. Her body rejected the initial round of antibiotics. Whenever the medical team woke Carolina from her induced coma, she would begin to crash, her heart rate falling, her lungs deflating while the fluid inside of them remained.

Day by day, the medical team worked tirelessly to find the right combination of medications and therapies. When she finally awoke, Carolina had no idea that nine days had passed, that she had missed Christmas, and that her daughter weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces at birth. She desperately wanted to see her baby, but she had more recovery ahead of her. Carolina was unable to walk and could barely speak above a whisper. It was another several days before she could breathe on her own, after which she had to begin physical rehabilitation and lung therapy.

Finally, Carolina grew strong enough to shower and prepare herself to enter the Medical Center’s germ-free NICU. When she was wheeled into the unit, the staff welcomed Carolina warmly. They called her the “miracle mom,” and said they had been waiting for her. When Carolina held London for the first time, almost two weeks after her birth, the feelings she experienced were truly incredible. “It was a burst of love and protection, something I had never felt before,” she said.

After several more weeks of intensive, round-the-clock care to cure the bacterial infection and restore her health, Carolina was released from Providence Saint Joseph with no lingering complications. She still came back daily to be with her daughter in the NICU. As soon as London attained the proper weight, she was released to join her mother and begin a happy, healthy life together.

At times Carolina still finds herself moved by the enormity of what happened to her (and what could have happened). “I would not be here today if it were not for these doctors and nurses,” she says.

The experience has inspired Carolina to volunteer at Providence Saint Joseph. She is particularly eager to work with expectant single mothers. “I think this happened to me for a reason, so that I can help other moms and women in need, and show them that they don’t have to do everything on their own,” says Carolina. “There are programs and amazing people at Saint Joseph’s that can help them be there for their children, even if they think they can’t.”

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Call: 818-847-4673
Address: 501 S Buena Vista St, Burbank, CA 91505
Email: psjfoundation@providence.org

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