A Family-Centered Birthing Place

December 5, 2016

The caring, experienced staff in the McAlister Women’s Health Center is here to make your delivery save and comfortable

When Martha Ho chose to deliver her first child at Saint John’s Health Center in 1978, she and her husband, David, had no idea they were developing a relationship with the hospital that would last for nearly four decades. All they knew was that the staff was incredibly welcoming and kind and made them feel safe and secure.

“We were quite young, and we didn’t know what we were doing when it came to having a baby,” says David, who has been a Saint John’s Health Center Foundation trustee since 2010. “When we were considering different hospitals, we liked the fact that Saint John’s was a small community hospital that felt more personal than the larger hospitals in the area. And when we took our childbirth classes there, and then a tour, we felt comfortable and not at all intimidated.”

The couple had such a positive experience at the Health Center that following the birth of baby Jennifer Hanjean, they opted to deliver their second and third daughters, Danielle Hanyian and Natasha Hanming, there as well. “Saint John’s has such a nice, calm, homey feeling,” says Martha, who has been a member of the Irene Dunne Guild since 2000, “but it’s the genuineness of the people who work there that makes it such a special place.”

So special, in fact, that when each of the Ho daughters married and became pregnant, they chose to deliver their children there too—all six of them! “My daughters are independent adults, and if I wanted them to do something that they didn’t want to do, it wouldn’t happen,” says Martha, laughing. “They all chose to deliver at Saint John’s on their own.” In keeping with family tradition, all three of David and Martha’s daughters, and all six of their grandchildren were delivered by William K. Hummer, MD; L. Joel Kessler, MD; and Karla G. Iacampo, MD.

Convenience clearly hasn’t been a factor in their choice of hospitals or doctors, Martha adds—while Jenny did live on the Westside during her first pregnancy, all three daughters now live in the San Gabriel Valley, underscoring just how much they value what Saint John’s has to offer. “It’s a long drive not only for doctor’s appointments, but especially when you’re in labor,” Martha says. “I’ve had my share of nervousness that they wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time!”

They have, though, helping to make Martha just a bit more comfortable in the event that more grandchildren are in her and David’s future—especially after daughter Jenny needed to be hospitalized on several different occasions due to complications during her third pregnancy. “The medical care at Saint John’s is always excellent, and it was especially important in our daughter’s case for her high-risk pregnancy,” says Martha.

And in another turn of events that keeps the Ho family and Saint John’s forever linked, Jenny and her husband, Reggie, named their third daughter Karla Kay in honor of Dr. Iacampo, who helped Jenny through her very difficult pregnancy. “I hope that we’ll be able to have more babies and have them all at Saint John’s,” Martha adds.

And while Saint John’s offers that same familial, homey feeling to all of its patients, it’s also prepared to handle virtually any emergency, large or small, that might occur during labor and delivery—or within any other department at the hospital.

A Community Hospital With Big Technology

Saint John’s is dedicated to the highest level of personalized care for mothers and newborns and has been for more than 70 years. The hospital is also dedicated to providing patients with state-of-the-art technology—something not necessarily common among other community hospitals.

The Laborist Program

Launched in 2012, and one of the first offered by community hospitals in the LA area, the Saint John’s laborist program ensures that an experienced obstetrician is available on-site, 24 hours a day. “Things can happen very quickly in obstetrics, and having a physician in the hospital who can, for example, do a cesarean section in minutes rather than having to call another doctor in the middle of the night is extremely important,” says Albert J. Phillips, MD, medical director of women’s health services. A number of babies would have died or suffered irreparable damage had a laborist not been in the hospital.”

The laborist is also available to consult and work with a woman’s primary physician to perform more routine procedures, such as breaking the bag of waters to help advance labor. Another benefit to the laborist program is that it allows expectant mothers who wish to attempt a trial of labor after cesarean section (TOLAC ) to do so—with agreement from their primary obstetrician, of course. In fact, according to Irena Zuanic, RN, administrative director of women’s health services, the laborist program is directly responsible for an increase not only in the number of women who are attempting TOLACs but in the number of women who are successfully able to have vaginal births after cesarean section (VBAC).

The Massive Transfusion Protocol

Saint John’s massive transfusion protocol is immediately instituted whenever any patient—not just in labor and delivery—experiences a hemorrhage; it calls for virtually every department in the Health Center, from the operating room to the emergency department to radiology, to be on alert so all appropriate personnel can be dedicated to that one patient if necessary. “Severe hemorrhages don’t happen that often, but when they do, they are life-threatening,” says Jon S. Matsunaga, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist who practices at Saint John’s and a former chairman of the OB-GYN department. “It is essential for any hospital that performs childbirth or high-risk procedures to have a protocol like we’ve developed here. It’s lifesaving.”

Nitrous Oxide for Pain Relief

In another groundbreaking move, Saint John’s is involved in a pilot project, scheduled to launch this summer, to test the use of self-administered nitrous oxide to help manage the pain of childbirth. “We will be one of only a handful of hospitals in the US and the first hospital not only in LA county, but in the Providence network, to use this alternative form of pain relief,” says Dr. Phillips.

“The nitrous oxide pain management option is a viable choice for some of our patients,” says Irena. “Our team is very excited to offer this service to patients who are interested in less invasive pain relief during labor.”

A State-of-the-Art Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

No woman wants to imagine her baby might be born preterm or that s/he might need specialized care after delivery, but giving birth at a hospital with a high-level NICU is paramount, especially in a community with many women who are having babies later in life, according to Irena.

The Health Center’s NICU is a Level III, meaning that it can care for babies born as early as 23 weeks’ gestation. With a neonatologist on call 24 hours a day and a full staff of specialists in the department around the clock, babies are provided top-notch care no matter the time of day or night. “We provide a supportive, family-like environment, a multidisciplinary team of neonatologists, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers and many other specialists working in close collaboration with maternal-fetal specialists, obstetricians, pediatricians and pediatric surgeons,” Irena explains.

To learn more about how you can support Women’s Health Services, please contact Cookie Galanti at 310-829-8423 or cookie.galanti@stjohns.org.

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