08/20/2014 06:15 pm ET Updated Oct 20, 2014

Not Just a STAT Section

Shelly Lopez Gray

I had been a new graduate nurse for about two weeks when I experienced my first STAT section. Even though I was not working triage that day, I knew to follow every other labor nurse as they ran towards the room. As I made my way in, I saw a mother lying there, soaking in a pool of dark red blood. Her husband stood wide-eyed in a corner. Feeling temporarily frightened and frozen, I stood back, watching the other nurses. They all instinctively knew what to do and who was doing it, it looked like they were all performing some sort of silent dance. I then did the only thing I knew I could do... I grabbed a pen from my pocket and started writing on my hand: FHTs 30's @... O2 @... IV in @.... As she was rushed to the OR I remember thinking, who called the doctor? Who called the anesthesiologist? But someone had called them and they were there by the time the patient entered the OR.

As the baby was pulled from her mother's abdomen, I watched the nursery nurses spring into action. The baby was pale and limp, like a rag doll. The baby made no effort to make a sound, but I could hear my own heart rate pulsating in my ears. I watched the nurses do chest compressions, again in sync with one another. The mother was under general anesthesia, and in that moment I was so glad she was not awake to know that her baby had no cry, and that the only sound that could be heard was of the nurse saying "one and two and three and breathe" in the most calm and determined voice I had ever heard.

I walked out of the OR and the patient's husband was pacing outside of the OR door. His eyes pleaded with me to tell him that everything was alright, that his wife was OK and that his baby was still alive. I told him the only thing I knew (or thought I knew) I was allowed to tell him: Your baby was just born and they will be taking her back to the NICU straight away. Your wife is not awake yet. You have the best people taking care of your family and the doctor will be out very soon to talk to you. But in my head I was screaming. I wanted to grab him and shake him and say: oh-my-God. I'm praying that your baby is OK. When she was born she was as white as that wall and she looked like a doll and I don't know if she's even alive. Instead, I hugged him, and he began to cry into my shoulder.

For the rest of my shift, I could not stop thinking about the people who touched that patient and her baby that day. Things would have been so much different if everyone did not know what they were doing, if the patient had not come to the hospital. I watched nurses work on a limp and lifeless baby until a cry was finally compelled from her motionless body. Before going home, I went to a bathroom and threw up. I left dying to tell someone what I had seen, the miracle that I had witnessed, and every single event that had occurred. But my husband did not understand. He listened to me and then tousled my hair and said "I'm sorry you had a bad day." And all I could think of was what do you mean, a bad day?!?

When I said "dark red blood," every nurse reading this thought "abruption!" And it was. As the months went by, I would later realize that the unit secretary was the one who was calling the physician and the anesthesiologist (and lab, and blood bank, and...). At the time, I didn't think to ask who was watching all of the other labor patients while every labor nurse was dancing in triage. Later, I would realize that the "ex" labor nurses who were now working postpartum were the ones watching the strips. The OR techs only had to hear the word "STAT" and they had the OR opened in seconds. Every person on that unit knew what had to be done and everyone was focused on saving mom and baby.

Sometimes the outcomes aren't as good as this one was. It doesn't matter what kind of STAT case we are presented with, we know what we have to do and we do it. Every single person from the unit secretary to the nurse to the physician is working together to produce the very best outcome. So the next time you are at work, look at the people around you and value what they can do for you and your patient, and value what you can do together. Because when we work together during that silent dance, we do absolutely amazing things.

And for any woman out there who has been the mother in a similar scenario, know that our only goal as a nurse is a healthy mom and baby. Everything we do, we do for you and for the baby that you carry. If you were the mother who had to leave her baby in the NICU or the mother who did not get to bring her baby home, know that it is never just a STAT section for us. Our voices may sound calm and determined, but inside, our hearts are beating in our ears and we are all praying for miracles.


Until my next delivery <3



Originally published in Adventures of a Labor Nurse: the Highs and Lows of Labor and Delivery