TW: This story includes topics of miscarriage and stillbirth. This might be sensitive to some individuals; please proceed with care.
After the healthy arrival of their first child, Cari Hanaway and her husband, John felt that EvergreenHealth had already surpassed their high expectations for their growing family.
“Throughout our first pregnancy via IVF we were amazed by how helpful EvergreenHealth was in preparing us for childbirth and parenthood. We took classes offered at the hospital where we could ask all those first-time parent questions, knew every detail ahead of the birth, and our nerves were settled about labor and delivery. After Aisley was born, the education only continued: nurses and midwives answered questions and reassured us, follow up appointments were scheduled without hesitation, and a lactation consultant was always available for support with breastfeeding. We had friends whose experiences at other hospitals were not as supportive – in those first few weeks where you don’t have the capacity to search for a phone number to find resources yourself, we could not imagine that first birth experience without the support of EvergreenHealth.”
After such a positive experience, the Hanaway family was over the moon to be back at EvergreenHealth for their second pregnancy. However, the excitement of learning they were expecting twins turned to heartbreak when their initial ultrasound showed the babies did not have heartbeats.
“We were devastated. But everyone was so kind to us. When we came in for the D&C procedure, everyone was aware that we had lost twins and how difficult that moment was for us. There was nothing “procedural” about it…the medical team was extra careful with us and it felt like they truly understood and grieved this loss as well.”
This heartbreak though didn’t change their mind about EvergreenHealth.
“Some people might have said, ‘I’m never going back to that hospital because the experience I had was so traumatizing.’ But we just felt that we were treated so tenderly. There wasn’t anywhere else we wanted to go for our care.”
Almost a year later, twenty weeks into their third pregnancy via IVF, the Hanaway family received another round of devastating news. The ultrasound showed that a mass was growing off the baby’s tailbone, a condition that jeopardized both mom and baby.
“In the weeks after we received this news, what stood out to us the most was how diligently our team at EvergreenHealth worked to try and find a solution. They knew the outcomes didn’t look good for me or our baby, but they explored every option. One of the Maternal Fetal Medicine physicians took our case to a national, and later international, conference where he consulted with other physicians about a procedure that could help the baby’s viability. Our medical team helped us set up a second opinion, arranged for additional tests at Seattle Children’s Hospital and placed calls to experts around the country to receive additional input. One of our physicians told us ‘being a doctor a team sport’ – they never hesitated to consult other medical experts on our behalf, they just wanted what was best for our health.”
Unfortunately, Cari’s condition worsened, and her kidneys started to fail. While they could have attempted a very high-risk procedure to try and block blood flow to the growing mass, their baby’s slim chance at survival depended on Cari also surviving the pregnancy. Although their baby would not survive, birth was the only option to save Cari’s life.
“As a mother, all you are thinking about is that you want to do everything you can to save your baby. But as my physicians, they are looking out for my health and the well-being of my husband and daughter. In the end, my physician had to make the call to save my life and I’m so glad he did.”
In the hours after Sennett’s stillbirth, Cari and John bonded with their nurses and physicians in a way they never thought possible.
“At first I was so upset at everything and just did not want to be there. But after our daughter, Sennett, was born, we were just so in awe of her and so proud to call her ours. The nurses and physicians were the only ones besides us to ever hold our daughter. And like us, they fawned over her and talked to her. They made sure we had a set of her footprints and all the photos of her we wanted. They helped us say hello and goodbye to our precious baby…and we couldn’t be more grateful for everything they did for us during that time.”
After leaving the hospital, Cari came back to EvergreenHealth for appointments with Maternal Fetal Medicine for the next six weeks.
“Every time I came in, the medical staff would lead me to a room in the back of the office so I wouldn’t have to sit in the lobby with other pregnant women. Later, I joined a support group for mothers with stillborn babies and learned that wasn’t the case for mothers at different hospitals…many were not given the same privacy and choice to wait in an area without those emotional triggers. EvergreenHealth was always supportive in those little ways; they looked out for my emotional well-being.”
These two heartbreaking experiences, compounded with the onset of a pandemic, led to an understandable amount of anxiety at the beginning of Cari’s fourth pregnancy. But as in the past, her team of physicians were there for her – they understood why she might feel anxious and had no hesitation to schedule several extra appointments for reassurance.
At 21 weeks pregnant, however, anxiety turned to outright paralyzing stress when the Hanaway’s 3-year-old daughter, Aisley, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After two tragic losses during pregnancy, their daughter had a 60% chance of survival and would be undergoing one of the most invasive chemotherapy treatments available to a child. At 31 weeks pregnant, Cari’s blood pressure required her to be admitted to EvergreenHealth’s Antepartum Unit.
“Absolutely everything in our lives was insanely stressful. And when I was first admitted, I thought ‘every time someone comes into this antepartum room, I am going to have to explain to them what is going on in my life.’ But I never once had to explain. Every caregiver who walked through the door, without fail, knew about the stillbirth of Sennett and about Aisley’s chemotherapy. Not having to relive these experiences over and over again made us so grateful to be a part of this EvergreenHealth community.”
After their youngest daughter, Elin, was born prematurely and admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), that attention to detail didn’t change.
“I thought for sure that once we were up in the NICU I would have to start explaining what was happening presently in our lives that made being at the hospital, and staying by Elin’s side, so difficult. But I still never had to fill anyone in. From the first time we walked into the NICU it was ‘how’s Aisley doing?’ or ‘how can we help accommodate you traveling back and forth?’ It was astounding to us that not once in six weeks did anyone ever miss a beat. That level of care and consistency gave us the confidence to know that Elin was in the best care possible. It was such a relief as a parent to know you didn’t need to bat an eye leaving her in their hands.”
Over a year later, both Aisley and Elin are home and healthy. For the Hanaway family it is such a relief. This time of reflection led them to reach out and share their story, with the hope of inspiring others to invest in the next chapter of women’s and children’s care at EvergreenHealth.
“People who know about our journey think that we wouldn’t want to go back to the healthcare setting where these traumatic events occurred. But honestly, we couldn’t imagine going anywhere else. We now live in Marysville, and we make the drive anytime we need to go to EvergreenHealth. There was never a time – in almost four years – where we didn’t feel completely cared for and surrounded by love.
When we asked Cari and John why they hoped others would invest in the future of care at EvergreenHealth, it all came back to the details – the “tiny puzzle pieces” as they call them.
“All of those tiny puzzle pieces – clinical excellence, emotional support, social work services, world-class facilities, access to classes and resources – mean the world to parents and families, no matter their situation. And when we invest in every one of those little puzzle pieces, the bigger and brighter the picture will be.”
This story is shared in memory of Sennett Kathryn Hanaway who was born and passed at Evergreen Health on October 29, 2019.
PC: Charlie Ainslie Photography
Construction is underway to enhance EvergreenHealth’s award winning childbirth center, expand the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and bring together a purposeful and beautiful new space to care for growing families, like the Hanaways. To support the Care for our Future Campaign, give today or reach out to EvergreenHealth Foundation to learn more.
Contact: Megan Whitman | firstname.lastname@example.org | 425.899.1910