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The Fergusons

Erin Ferguson gave birth to twins at Gulf Coast Hospital. Learn more about her story.

March 01, 2019

Erin Ferguson can't stop the emotion from spilling out when she talks about the birth of her twins and how the skilled and compassionate team at Gulf Coast Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) saved the newest additions to her precious family.

The Ferguson's knew their pregnancy was high risk. They utilized IVF to get pregnant with their babies and she was prescribed bed rest at nearly 24 weeks into the pregnancy. Her medical team's goal was to delay labor for at least 10 more weeks, but within 10 days of admission to the hospital, she went into labor.

"We were terrified," she said. "My husband was freaking out. I remember the neonatologist giving him a pep talk, saying we've got this. We've got you and we've got your babies." Antonio Pena, M.D., is the Medical Director of the NICU, and led the effort to care for the Ferguson's tiny babies from the moment they were born.

Their baby girl, Harper, weighed 1 pound 12 ounces, and Harrison, their son, weighed 1 pound 6 ounces when they were born by Cesarean-section on July 22nd. "I will never forget hearing someone in the delivery room say 'we have the dream team here.' It gave me such a sense of calm." Mrs. Ferguson said the moment they were delivered the babies were whisked away to the NICU to begin receiving very specialized care. "The staff knew how difficult this was for us, not to be able to hold them. They made sure to wheel me to the NICU so I could see them as soon as I had recovered from the birth."

"The first time I was able to go to the NICU, I was welcomed with open arms." Through tears she recalled the love and kindness shown to her family by the NICU staff. "They were so extremely gentle with our babies," she said. "Our little boy was sensitive to touch and sound. They took extra steps to put little ear muffs on him. They encouraged us to touch and talk to them. The empathy they showed was amazing. They could see the fear on our faces."

"Not being able to hold your newborn is so hard and creates a sense of guilt. They understood how I felt and helped us bond by giving me little pads to pump breast milk on to put in their isolates so they could have my smell. They used every little bit I could pump to do mouth care so they were getting a sense of me. Those are the important little details they thought of that gave us comfort."

Throughout the summer and fall, the Fergusons were able to visit their babies every day with the doctor and nurses encouraging them to ask questions. "They were so thorough in their explanations. In the NICU there are so many noises and machines attached to the babies. Each morning when we arrived they greeted us by name and went over every detail of our babies' progress. When we were able to provide what they call kangaroo care (skin to skin) they stressed how important it was to do it every day. They made a big deal about every detail so that we could celebrate milestones with our babies."

By October the babies were growing and doing well and the Ferguson's looked forward to just a few more weeks in the NICU before they could take their babies home. Then, Hurricane Michael took aim at their Panama City community. "At first it was predicted to be a minor storm, then within a couple of days it strengthened," said Mrs. Ferguson. Her husband, who is in the military, had to evacuate per protocol. The plan was for him to take their three-year-old son away from the storm and she would stay at the hospital with the babies. But as the storm gained strength, hospital leadership made the decision to evacuate their most vulnerable patients.

"Dr. Pena told us they would fly the twins to Osceola Hospital south of Orlando," she said. "We would drive and meet them there. We had to leave before they did. The transport team was amazing. They texted and sent us pictures so we knew what was happening. When we arrived at the hospital, I cried when I saw our nurses there to take care of us. Gulf Coast Hospital had sent nurses to cover both day and night shifts while we were there."

Hurricane Michael hit Panama City on Oct. 10. The babies were discharged from Osceola Hospital on November 1st. Since then the Fergusons, whose rental home sustained extreme damage, have lived in five different homes. But with all of those challenges, by December Harper and Harrison had grown into healthy 9 pound babies who are thriving and were able to leave the NICU without having to be given any special therapy.

"We will be forever grateful to the staff at Gulf Coast Hospital NICU. Without a doubt, it is because of the care and love they gave our whole family that our babies are doing so well," said Mrs. Ferguson. "They have become like family. They saw us at our most vulnerable. They cried with us, they prayed with us, they loved on us through the entire experience."

March 01, 2019
HCA Florida Gulf Coast Hospital