Experiencing your first ultrasound and finding out you’re having twins is surprising. Experiencing your second ultrasound and finding out you’re actually having triplets is shocking. Waking up at 1 a.m. to your water breaking at 29 weeks pregnant is terrifying. For Katie Wexler and her husband Fred, that’s what happened; while they didn’t plan to deliver their triplets in Pullman, their babies had a different plan of making history.
When Katie woke up in the middle of the night, she believed her water had broken but she wasn’t sure. “As a first-time mom, I didn’t know what to expect or if this was normal. I woke up my husband, and we called MultiCare Deaconess Hospital in Spokane, where we had planned to deliver. They directed us to Pullman Regional Hospital for evaluation before making the drive up to Spokane,” recalls Katie.
When they arrived at Pullman Regional, the couple was greeted by Hannah Neibergs, RN, who confirmed Katie’s water had in fact broken. Dr. Ric Minduri, OB/GYN at Moscow/Pullman OB/GYN, determined labor had progressed too far to safely get Katie to Spokane. The call was made: the babies would make their early entrance in Pullman.
Pullman Regional Hospital is a 25-bed critical access hospital without a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). More complex pregnancies, especially multiples, are usually directed to larger and more specialized hospitals in Spokane equipped to care for premature infants. Pullman Regional Hospital staff quickly made calls and assembled a team for delivery- comprised of care providers who were on-call that night, as well as others that voluntarily came in to help. More than 20 people assembled in the operating room to assist in the cesarean delivery of the first 29-week gestation delivery ever completed in Pullman.
“What should have been the scariest time of my life was somehow calm and controlled. I know a lot of it was in God’s hands, but it was also in large part due to every individual involved in our care,” says Katie. “Our nurse, Hannah, talked me through everything that was going to happen and what I could expect in surgery. Because I was still pretty early in my pregnancy, we hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to our OB/GYN and ask questions about the procedure. Hannah answered all of my questions and helped me stay extremely relaxed.”
Another person Katie recalls being a calming presence was Troy Sibbett, CRNA with Pullman Anesthesia. “He was so comforting and continued to check in on me throughout the whole surgery- he even made sure my husband was doing okay as well,” says Katie.
Once the babies were born, each one required a separate care team led by a pediatrician. Doctors Methuel Gordon, Katie Hryniewicz, and Maricarmen Shields, Pediatricians at Palouse Pediatrics, stabilized the babies, kept them warm, and prepared them for transfer. “Dr. Shields was wonderful about coming to update me on the status of the babies. Since I was recovering, I was only able to see the babies for about 5 minutes.”
Each baby was transferred via Life Flight individually, the last baby left Pullman 10 hours after she was born. “That was a very long time to stabilize babies in a hospital not used to delivering preemie babies! I was told there were no oxygen masks small enough for the babies, and that someone had to hold the masks they had the entire time the babies were there to make sure there was proper seal, and they were getting the oxygen they needed,” says Katie.
The babies arrived and were admitted to the MultiCare Deaconess NICU on January 16. One of the NICU nurses who was on shift when the triplets arrived commended Pullman Regional by saying, “It is remarkable that you were able to assemble a team, which I imagine to be very large, in the middle of the night to bring these babies safely into the world, and then care for them for many hours while waiting for transport teams to trickle in. As each baby arrived to our unit, they were warm, had stable blood sugars, and were stable on their respiratory support, which we don’t always find coming from smaller hospitals. It is because of your teamwork that we here at Deaconess have the great privilege of watching this family bond with their babies as they all three continue to grow and thrive.”
Because she was recovering from surgery, Katie had to stay in Pullman for four days while her husband was with the babies in Spokane. “I was well taken care of and felt very loved and supported by the many staff that watched over me during my stay. I am truly honored to say my triplets were born at Pullman Regional Hospital,” beams Katie.
“I laugh now because throughout my pregnancy, whenever people would ask me if I could deliver in Pullman or if I would have to go to Spokane, I would always tell them, ‘No, we will deliver in Spokane because Pullman just doesn’t have the equipment and resources to deliver triplets. And how traumatic would it be if I had a c-section and my babies get life-flighted, and I have to stay because I just had surgery and I won’t get to see them for days?’ Well, that quickly became my reality, and it could have been traumatic, but it wasn’t, because I got the best care from the people at Pullman Regional Hospital,” reflects Katie.
Katie is happy to report that all 3 babies are healthy and growing! The family is still in the NICU in Spokane, but Katie is optimistic they’ll be able to come home later this spring. “It is because of Pullman Regional Hospital that my 3 triplets, Allie, Fred, and Caleb, are thriving and doing well and get a chance to grow up in an amazing community like Pullman.”