As the marketing and physician outreach coordinator at The Outer Banks Hospital, my office is across the street from the hospital. Due to both my location and role, I rarely have the opportunity to engage with patients.

However, in response to COVID-19, the hospital implemented a “resource pool” that team members sign up for outside of their normal job functions. Team members take on roles such as entryway screeners, scrub room monitors, and patient check-in staff at the front desk.

I signed up to work the front desk and be a front-entrance screener. As one of the “work from home” team members, and being a self-proclaimed people person, I felt this would be a great way to interact with others (beyond the daily interactions with my husband and spoiled dog).

Our hospital lobby has large windows that look out into the parking lot. One Friday afternoon when I was working as an entryway screener, I observed a young man getting many items out of his car: overnight bags, pillows, blankets, etc. From the looks of this, he was coming to visit his significant other who was having a baby.

(On a side note, our labor and delivery unit has not skipped a beat during COVID-19 times. There have been so many babies born!)

Having finally gathered everything, the man walked into the lobby. During the screening process (checking temperature, hand sanitizing, masking), we joked about everything he was carrying. He was going to be a first-time daddy and his level of excitement was something I will never forget! Not having kids myself, I have not felt this, but his aura was contagious. He exclaimed, “I’m having a boy and his name is going to be Waylon!” Throughout that evening, I smiled to myself thinking about his happiness.

A week later, I was working the front desk. The same man came in with his cousin, each of them holding two large baskets of treats. Still with the same level of jubilation, he brought goodies for the labor and delivery nurses because “they were his heroes.”

I asked Tyler whether I could share his story. He agreed. I reached out to him and his fiancée, Emily, who shared their story…

May 15, 2020, was probably one of the scariest, most exciting days of my life. I went in for my 37-week checkup and was immediately sent up to labor and delivery due to my elevated blood pressure. The nurses told me that I would not be leaving the hospital without my baby. They scheduled me for an induction that day. An overwhelming sense of emotions hit me like a ton of bricks. I was not ready: I did not have my bags, my fiancé was still working, my dogs were home alone, and I had not even finished my labor and delivery class. Nothing was going as planned, and I was scared. Little did I know, this was just the beginning of our ‘unplanned’ journey. Tyler arrived at the hospital a few hours later with all of my bags and we were ready to get started. The induction process began, and a few short hours later, my son, Waylon Walski, was born.

Rewind to when I first found out I was pregnant. At the time, Tyler was out on the water, commercial fishing. He would not be home for another week or more, so I had to share the news via FaceTime. I have never seen a smile so big. He was ecstatic.

He called me a few days later once he got service again to share a story with me. One of his late nights on the boat, he was having a peaceful moment to himself and asking the universe to give him a sign that everything is going to be okay. Mind you, we both lost our fathers at a young age. No sooner than he said that, he saw the biggest, brightest shooting star he had ever seen in his life. Now, with tears in his eyes, Tyler knew his dad was with him and he was ready to embrace the journey of fatherhood.

When Waylon was born at 3:15am, on May 16, that star was all Tyler could think of. The intense feelings of gratitude and bliss had taken over both of us. Soon after the adrenaline had worn off, things started going a bit south for me. My blood pressure remained elevated, my blood platelets were dropping at an alarming rate, and my liver enzymes were through the roof. I developed severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome and completely lost my eyesight by Sunday evening. To prevent seizures and/or a stroke, they put me on a magnesium drip and sent me to Norfolk Monday morning. They sent my new baby boy home with his grandmas…without me.

I still choke up every time I think about my labor and delivery experience. Between induction and leaving The Outer Banks Hospital that Monday, I was terrified. However, every single nurse took care of me during those days, both physically and emotionally. As dramatic as it sounds, they saved my life. Dr. Powell, Christina, Ashley, Amanda, and Katie all had a huge part in making sure I went home to my son. Each one of them made my health a priority and showed immense compassion. Most of all, their kindness and warmth was exactly what I needed during one of the scariest moments of my life.

Thank you, Dr. Powell, Dr. Dwyer, and all of the labor and delivery nurses at the Outer Banks Hospital!”

I often hear about accolades given to my fellow team members. As the hospital’s social media coordinator, I read the feedback about them too. Nevertheless, the information is always secondhand.

It was truly meaningful to be able to witness the joy in this man and to see how happy he was with our hospital. Having this opportunity to interact directly with this patient (and others) is an honor. I would like to thank my place of employment for allowing me to step out of my work comfort zone. It is refreshing to be a part of something other than the stress and uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

Our hospital is open and safe. We are here for you.

Epilogue: I wrote this story in June 2020; however, did not release it until now (March 2021). As a follow-up, Emily and Tyler are now married, and baby Waylon is doing great. I appreciate them letting me share their story.