Change of Birth Plans

October 21, 2020

Typically, we photograph every patient appearing in HealthU. Because this story was planned during the surge of COVID-19, that contact would have been too risky. Instead, our team took a creative approach and replaced photo shoots with illustrated portraits of patients.

As the old saying goes, the best laid plans often go awry. Sometimes that’s unfortunate; other times it’s serendipitous. Thankfully for Dena and Yaakov Kibel, it was the latter.

It was a cold winter’s night in February 2020. Dena, 36 years old and 38.5 weeks pregnant with her fifth child, woke in the middle of the night in full-on labor. Her plan had been to give birth at a hospital in New York City, 55 miles from her home in Lakewood, New Jersey. At 30 weeks in utero, her baby was diagnosed during an ultrasound with premature atrial contractions (PAC)—premature heartbeats in the upper chambers of the heart—and Dena and Yaakov felt comfortable with the doctors in New York with whom they’d built a relationship.

“That night when I went into labor, I fully believed I was on my way to New York City to give birth. That was the plan—and I’m a very organized, plan-things-out type of person,” Dena says. “I’m not a spur-of-the-moment person at all.”

Dena, a learning disability teacher/consultant for the Toms River Regional Board of Education, and Yaakov, a licensed clinical social worker, were in the car by 1:45 a.m. en route to the city. As her labor pains intensified, and her contractions grew closer by the minute, Dena remembers being in intense pain. It became obvious they needed a backup plan.

Panicking and unsure of what to do, Yaakov remembered the Labor and Delivery team at Ocean Medical Center in Brick Township, New Jersey. They plugged the hospital into the GPS and went straight to the Emergency Department.

“We literally came running in through the front door,” Dena says.

Ready for the Unexpected

The time was 2:05 a.m. A nurse rushed from behind the desk to help her. “She was so completely reassuring and attentive,” says Dena, adding that the team was respectful of her family’s Orthodox Jewish culture. “I felt like I was in good hands.”

Dena still didn’t quite believe she would give birth at Ocean. “I was in a bit of denial. I thought I’d get checked out and then move on to somewhere else,” she says. “This wasn’t part of my plan, and it was pretty terrifying to imagine having my baby, given his condition, with an entirely new team of people.”

But when Jeffrey Schlogl, M.D., the Emergency Department doctor on duty that night, realized that Dena was ready to push immediately, he whisked her onto a gurney, through the hallway and into the elevator to the Labor and Delivery unit. “It was like something out of a movie,” Dena says. “Dr. Schlogl got me up there so fast, it was record time, and we all joked that he just didn’t want to deliver a baby that night!”

Adds Dr. Schlogl, “We’re trained to handle anything that comes through the Emergency Department door; full term and ready to deliver is included in that. But we’re also incredibly fortunate to have an OB Hospitalist Group in-house.”

Founded on the commitment that every expectant mother presenting to Labor and Delivery would receive consistent, unconditional, quality medical care from an experienced physician, this group of highly trained doctors are available 24/7 for women who find themselves in unplanned scenarios.

Once they were in the Labor and Delivery unit, Dr. Schlogl transferred Dena’s care to Susan Passarella, D.O., part of the OB Hospitalist Group.

“We’re there and ready for the unexpected for women who find themselves in emergency situations,” Dr. Passarella says. “The truth is, you don’t necessarily need nine months to build a relationship with a patient. You can establish a good rapport and confidence with a patient in minutes
if you have to.”

That’s just what Dr. Passarella did. “Even though I wasn’t delivering with my original doctor, I felt so comfortable and reassured by Dr. Passarella and her team,” Dena says. “She was confident, calm and competent. I was beyond grateful to have her by my side.”

Dena planned on an epidural like she’d done with her other pregnancies. “But that wasn’t happening,” Dr. Passarella says. “There wasn’t enough time.”

“I hadn’t done any of the breathing or preparation for a natural birth,” Dena says. “But Dr. Passarella and her team got me through it.”

Best Yet

At 2:15 a.m., her baby, Yehoshua—Hebrew for Joshua—was born. “The care I received from the entire team was just phenomenal. All the nurses, doctors and everyone there went out of the way to make us feel comfortable,” Dena says.

That goes for pediatric cardiologist Mitchel Alpert, M.D., who serves as director of Pediatric Cardiology at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Dr. Alpert arrived first thing in the morning to evaluate Yehoshua’s PAC, tracked down his medical records from New York City and ran a battery of tests. “He was extremely careful to do everything right. And he assured us that we could go home without any concerns,” Dena says.

The Kibels were discharged after a regular-length stay. “As far as having a baby is concerned—and I’ve had five—my experience at Ocean was my best hospital experience ever,” Dena says. “It wasn’t my plan, but it worked out for the best in the end. And I realized it’s always good to have an emergency backup plan.”

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