The Wills family

Fast response by birthing center team rescues newborn in distress

For the birth of her second child, Katie Wills arrived at the Birthing Center at OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center on her due date of January 5, 2017.

Moments after her contractions began, her nurse, Mary Beth Ettien, RN-OB noticed that the baby’s pulse rate had dropped precipitously. A blood vessel in the umbilical cord had ruptured and started to hemorrhage.

“Suddenly, I was being rushed into the operating room for an emergency cesarean section,” Katie recalled. “Right before the anesthesia took effect, somebody tapped my foot and told me, ‘We’re with you.’”

Natalie arrives

Katie Wills and her father in neonatal unit.A team of doctors and nurses were also there for Katie’s newborn daughter, Natalie, who didn’t have a pulse. For 15 minutes, two neonatologists worked to revive her. Finally, they got a heartbeat.

Further emergency treatment followed, which included cooling Natalie’s entire body to prevent brain damage. Within hours, the still-fragile infant was transferred to OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois.

“When Katie woke up, she asked me if her baby was going to live,” Mary Beth said. “We really didn’t know.”

Happy and healthy

The first positive sign occurred when neonatologists slowly began warming Natalie three days after her birth, while closely monitoring her and administering medications to prevent seizures.

Hovering anxiously over their daughter’s incubator, Katie and her husband, Kevin, suddenly saw Natalie raise her arm, almost like a wave.

“Seeing that first little movement was amazing,” Katie said. After that, Natalie progressed steadily and responded well to physical therapy to condition her sucking reflexes and allow her to nurse normally.

On January 22, she came home. Today she is a happy, healthy baby, showing no signs of her traumatic debut.

“Natalie’s story is truly a miracle—not just that she lived, but how well she’s doing now,” said Renell Composto, DNP, RNC-OB manager of the OSF St. Joseph Birthing Center. “She’s a testament to the teamwork and experience of our medical team.”

“Everyone knew exactly what to do,” said Mary Beth, who added that Natalie’s birth was one of the most memorable she’s seen in her 39 years of nursing. “I’ll never forget that little baby.”