Piedmont Newton nurses honored for special patient care | News

As a new mother herself, Cherish Ramirez knew how much Hannah Vincent was missing in the first few weeks after giving birth to her son. A pregnant Vincent had been admitted to Piedmont Newton Hospital with COVID-19 last November and after delivering her baby boy by cesarean, the 22-year-old mother was put on a ventilator and transported to Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.

With the mother at one hospital and the baby at another, Ramirez and Shannon Browning, along with their fellow nurses in Piedmont Newton Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), decided to make a baby book that would show the mama and her family just what baby Brayden was doing the first month of his life.

Ramirez, a resident of Mansfield, remembers being at the hospital the morning Vincent was sent to Piedmont Atlanta. “We were already caring for her little boy,” the nurse said. “I’m a charge nurse, and once a month we have a meeting and that meeting was the morning after she had declined through the night. We were talking about what had happened and discussing it really and I said, ‘What are we going to do?’ Hindsight, if she survives, of course we were pulling for her, but there is that realism. She’s about to miss weeks of her child’s life… We said we could make a scrapbook. We pitched ideas back and forth and everybody thought that was a good idea. I actually had a scrapbook at home for Colton that never got anything in it. My mom makes cards, so she had all the paper. My sister does photography on the side, so she had a Polaroid printer that hooks up to any cell phone.”

The whole staff got involved.

“Everybody jumped in and went above and beyond,” Ramirez said. “People made pictures and made pages. We captured the first feeding, the first bath — all those milestones that families want to see. We wrote cute little notes like ‘Today I drank my first bottle.’ That’s kind of how it got started. After she became conscious in Atlanta, we did FaceTime and people got some pictures of her FaceTiming with the baby. Everybody that’s admitted, we have some nice ladies who make a quilt. Every baby gets sent home with a quilt. That’s the first thing they lay on after they’re delivered. We networked to get the quilt he had laid on up to Atlanta to her. She was able to have something tangible to hold.”

Shannon Browning has been at Piedmont Newton for three and a half years and worked in the special care nursery helping look after baby Brayden.

“He was there about five weeks and he had a pretty normal course,” the nurse said. “We all tried to love on him extra because we knew he wasn’t getting that from his mom, and his dad was struggling to be in two places. He was special to all of us in here, and we just tried to give him extra.”

Browning said she and the others tried as much as possible to FaceTime with the mom and her newborn. “We tried to facilitate that as much as we could,” she said. “With the baby and hopefully as an encouragement to the mom to get better. For a while, she was looking like she was going to turn the corner, then suddenly turned the other way.”

Vincent died Nov. 30, 2021.

It was a blow not only to the young woman’s family, but to those who had come to know them, especially the hospital staff.

“The NICU is generally happy,” Ramirez said. “There are bad outcomes, but they are far and few between. It’s not the mom, but the baby. Through this, a lot of staff members encouraged me including Shannon. She’s a very godly woman and beautiful person inside and out. I was really struggling about Hannah passing away and then a second mom passed away. I was struggling about that second baby book. She was very encouraging and uplifting. My drive is for the families to be taken care of like I would want my family to be taken care of. Nobody wants to be there in that situation. We’ve all had somebody in the hospital and seen how stressful it can be. I have a lot of experience personally. I knew I wanted somebody to feel like this is how I want to be taken care of.”

A second pregnant mother with four other children came in weeks after Vincent, also with COVID-19.

“Hannah was pretty well and was generally a well person,” Ramirez said. “The second mom had other co-morbidities that didn’t put things in her favor, for sure. They were clinically almost opposites, but unfortunately, they both didn’t make it.” She said about a month after Vincent died, the second mom passed away and an aunt took the other children and the new baby to live with her. They gave her that baby’s scrapbook too.

“We did a baby book and that’s where I started to struggle,” Ramirez said. “In the first one, it was maybe she’ll make it. In the second one, I know she’s not going to make it. I knew what the odds were. It was a lot harder to bring myself to make the book. That’s where Shannon inspired me. She’s such a giving person and said we’ve got to keep going.”

Piedmont Newton nurses Ramirez and Browning were recently chosen from among 800 nominees across Georgia for a Celebrating Nurses Award for their “outstanding patient care” during an event sponsored by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A staff nurse in labor and delivery at Piedmont Newton, Browning was nominated for “her efforts to create one-of-a-kind experiences for families at the hospital.” Browning took photos, designed pages, donated film and helped with the scrapbook projects.

Ramirez, as a charge nurse for Piedmont Newton’s NICU, was nominated for her “extraordinary efforts to help a COVID-positive mother bond with her infant who was in the NICU and separated from his mother.” After Vincent died, Ramirez led efforts to arrange for flowers to be delivered to her funeral and supported the family until the baby was discharged from the hospital and sent home with his father. Ramirez also opened the door for other staff members to share their emotions about what happened and was so concerned about her staff, she called each one of them that night to tell them Vincent had passed away.

“It was the hardest thing I have ever done, having to say it over and over again,” Ramirez said.

When Stephen Vincent arrived to pick up his baby boy, the nurses were there to say good-bye to Brayden and to give his father the baby book they had all made.

“It took me a couple of weeks before I could make it all the way through it,” Vincent said. “I let other people look at it before I could lay my eyes on everything. It was just all so great. Just being able to see all the pictures of him getting his first bath and all the things I missed out on… Hannah being able to FaceTime him was no doubt the best. She was able to see him. That was the highlight of the book, no doubt.

“…I just thank them for all they did for me, for Hannah, for Brayden and for how much they brought us in as family, especially Brayden. It was really hard for them to let go. He had his own little special spot over there. He was living it up there and everybody else was just renting. They would always tell me how they would take Brayden around and hold him while they were checking other babies. He was almost a month old already.”

Vincent said he is grateful to those nurses and doctors who cared for his family.

“They did so much for us,” he said. “They ran up to Piedmont Atlanta a few times to take Hannah his blanket… It was really heartwarming to know they were there for us.”

Both Ramirez and Browning say they are humbled by the award and emphasize it belongs to the entire NICU staff. They say everyone made a point to get involved and help. Both women came to nursing after other careers and both say they love it.

Browning, who grew up in Gwinnett County, was a school administrator for 14 years before becoming a nurse. She was previously director of admissions for Loganville Christian Academy. Browning and her husband Brent live in Walton County and are the parents of Tyler, 26; Abbey and Allison, 24 and Christopher, 22, and new grandparents to baby Archer. It was when her now 24-year-old twin daughters were in the NICU that she says her desire to someday become a nurse began. Her husband’s job had him traveling full-time, so she said it was not feasible for her to go back to school. Once the children got older, she did go back to school and got her degree at Emory University in educational research. She later helped care for a nephew and niece who had health problems. Those experiences, she said, made her ask herself what she was waiting for, so she went back to Emory University and got a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 15 months.

“My only regret is I didn’t do it sooner,” Browning says of the career change. “I would work here every single day if they let me. I really would. I mean that so sincerely. There’s nothing I don’t love about this. They’re either premature or sick infants. On a good day, we get to hold them and love on them… Part of what I really love about it is to be there for the whole family. Having been a NICU mom myself, I have a different perspective on that. Most of the time we look at the babies and know the outcomes are going to be fine in the end. But as a parent, you don’t know that… They’re worried about their baby and their future. Since I wasn’t a nurse at the time, I know what it’s like coming at it from a non-medical viewpoint. I think information is power and trying to educate the parents on what does this mean. Most of the time, it is a short-term issue and not going to cause the baby long-term problems. Ninety-five percent of the time, it’s a bump in the road.”

Ramirez’s family grew up in Jackson and she went to school at McDonough Christian Academy before graduating from Community Christian Academy. Her first bachelor’s degree was in biology and she did research before going back to school and getting her nursing degree at Valdosta State University. She has been a nurse at Piedmont Newton for about five years and says she loves working with the babies in NICU. She and her husband Christian are the parents of son Colton, 2.

Ramirez says she is happy to know the Vincent family will have Brayden’s baby book to cherish for years to come.

“We gave him the book the day the baby was discharged,” she said of Brayden’s dad. “He flipped through the first maybe four pages and couldn’t look any more. We didn’t expect him to look at it then. We took a picture of him and told him if he needed anything to let us know. He had another little child at home. We made sure he had whatever bottles he needed, so when he got home he didn’t have to mess with what to use. One of my closing pieces in that book was after Hannah passed away. I made a page that dedicated the book in her memory. They’re a religious family, so I put a scripture in there about a mother’s love. He, of course cried, but maybe it was a couple of days later, he sent one of our nurses a picture of his daughter looking at the baby book. That was very sweet.”

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