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Clair's story   — Shawn & Rachael Hunsaker

Our unexpected nightmare started the minute our beautiful Clair was born, May 13, 2003. Clair is our first and only child. I developed toxemia during my third trimester and had to be induced at 37 weeks due to my high blood pressure. I had a week to prepare for my induction and, being the neurotic person that I am, I had everything ready. I knew that I was GBS positive, but was reassured that it was no big deal. On May 13, 2003, I checked into the hospital. The nurses started me on IV antibiotics right away, but because I am allergic to penicillin, I received other less strong antibiotics. The pitocin was started and the doctor broke my water. I remember looking at the clock and asking the doctor how long he expected it to be before I could hold my baby. He laughed and told me that it would be at least 14 hours, and that it would come soon enough. After 2 hours of waiting, I felt no contractions. The nurse just kept turning up the pitocin until I had reached the max. Then within 30 minutes I went from no contractions…to slight cramps. . . to, “I need an epidural . . . NOW”. It was too late to receive the epidural, and my beautiful baby was born 20 minutes later, just 2 ½ hours after being induced. A baby girl, Clair Joelle. Being new to the whole baby thing, I did not know that it wasn’t normal for the nurses and doctors to be whispering. My husband and I chatted gleefully at the fact that we had a girl. My husband was trying to see the baby, trying to take a picture, but the next thing we knew the nurse tells us that they want to take Clair to the nursery to have her checked out because her color was a little blue. She was Apgar 1. My husband went with Clair to the NICU, but was asked to leave soon after. Six hours later we still did not know the weight or length of our baby and had not been allowed to see her. I was moved into my postpartum room and the nurses that came in didn’t seem to know anything about our baby. I was starting to get nervous. My husband tried to get into the NICU, but was told that it wasn’t a good time. Finally we were able to see our baby. She was on a brand new ventilator that the hospital just bought, and was the first baby in our town to be on it. The doctor seemed excited as this machine was a big deal to her. She had written the grants to get it purchased for the hospital. We were not allowed to talk in the room, not allowed to touch Clair... we could only stand there and stare. My parents were not allowed to come see her, not even through the glass room that we were in, although a large group of student nurses were allowed to stare and gawk at this new ‘marvelous’ machine and us. Not even our pastor was allowed in to give her a blessing. I felt like I was in a fish bowl. After taking several trips from my postpartum room to the NICU, I finally left a message with a nurse that I wanted the doctor to come speak with us. No one had even talked to us to tell us what was going on. Twenty-four hours later the doctor finally met with us (in a crowded hallway) and told us that our baby had a PDA (Patent Ductus Arteriosis), which means the valve between the heart and lungs did not close. She said that Clair would be there for 2 weeks and, if it did not close on its own, they would do surgery. I asked if it was serious and she said, "No." I asked if she should be transferred to Boise and she said. "No." I never saw the doctor again! Later that night, a nurse came and told me to get dressed as they were discharging me. They were going to lifeflight our baby to St. Luke's Medical Center in Boise, two hours away. My husband and I were taken to the NICU where they took a blurry Polaroid picture of Clair, the only one they allowed to be taken thus far. They said that they were just stumped and that, because the doctor was so tired, they were moving her to Boise, and that things were still fine. We said our goodbyes. I remember smelling her hair trying to make a memory of her. My husband and I rushed home, 30 miles away, and packed a bag in record time. We were on our way to Boise. I can still feel how uncomfortable the two hour ride was, having given birth only 36 hours before. By 1 in the morning we reached the hospital. It was so huge and we could not find our way around due to remodeling that was going on. We finally found the NICU and they had us wait in a small waiting room because Clair had not arrived yet. They had taken her by ambulance to the airport in Twin Falls, then by jet to Boise airport, then again by ambulance. We sat in that waiting room for an hour, crying. I remember trying to look at a magazine, but all I could do was try to remember what she looked like. After all, I had only been able to spend a cumulative hour with her. Finally, they took us to her room. It was so beautiful in the NICU ward. Absolutely first class. We were not able to see her right away as they were trying to insert a IVS through her belly button, but they allowed us to sit in the corner of the room. The doctor, a veteran of 30+ years was sweating and very concerned. The valve had closed on its own! Great, I thought. We are going to be fine. The doctor told me otherwise. He said that the valve was not the problem, but that she was gravely ill. He said that he was surprised that she even made the flight. I was shocked! No one at our birth hospital gave us any clue. After we got situated at the NICU, my husband and I were told to get some sleep, that she was stable, but in serious condition. We went to a local hotel, and checked in at 5:00 a.m. After barely falling asleep, our cell phone rang. It was the hospital needing us to come back to sign some more consent forms. She was getting worse and they needed to do a central line immediately. It seemed like we were at the hospital 24/7. If we did leave, even to shower or eat, we were always rushed back in another emergency. We went back to the hospital and there was a cardiologist doing an echogram to make sure that her heart was fine. They added over 2 pounds to her with fluid, and had put her on an even larger ventilator. After the central line and many more medications were tried, they decided to give her a blood transfusion! It worked! She slowly started to improve, and in 8 days was off the ventilator. We finally were able to hold our baby girl! We had a few more days of setbacks, but things were looking good. We had a long road ahead of us, but, after 21 days in the NICU, we were allowed to go home, the day before our 3rd wedding anniversary. Our little blessing has no side effects of GBS other than her thyroid does not work and she has asthma caused from scarring of the lungs by the vents. My husband and I are scared to death of the thought of having another one. We have been trying to find statistics on the chance of this happening again. Does anyone know? I would love an answer. God bless those who have been effected by GBS. Please, tell your story and make everyone you know aware of this deadly disease. Shawn & Rachael Hunsaker Twin Falls, Idaho

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