High-Risk Pregnant Women Bond During Long Hospital Stay
Two women, strangers to each other, got shattering news in the middle of their first pregnancies. They had a dangerous complication that meant they had to spend the last five weeks of their pregnancies in the hospital.
Camila Macrone and Angela Long were devastated. They dreaded the loneliness and isolation of being in the hospital when they should have been home making joyous plans for their new lives. The elation of becoming a mother was numbed with disappointment and fear.
The two women wound up in adjoining rooms on the labor and delivery floor at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery earlier this year. It was especially challenging because COVID restrictions limited them to only two pre-designated visitors during their entire stay.
But then melancholy turned into magic. When Macrone and Long were introduced to each other, they clicked immediately and became inseparable companions.
From Patients to Friends
“We bonded instantaneously,” says Long, an occupational therapist who works with brain injury patients at MossRehab.
Macrone came from her native Brazil nine years ago as an exchange student and au pair, and wound up staying in the United States when she met her husband.
Long and Macrone are both in their early 30s, are into fitness and exercise, and are upbeat and talkative.
They spent every day together. They ate all their meals together. They sat on the balcony, talking endlessly and laughing constantly. They met each other’s spouses. They ordered take-out food and baby clothes online. They shared snacks. They expressed gratitude for their supportive families and the compassionate hospital staff.
“I didn’t feel like a patient when we were together,” Long says. “It was just two girlfriends hanging out.”
Their experience has inspired the medical team to intentionally try to duplicate what Macrone and Long created spontaneously. “It changed the way we probably will handle these types of situations in the future because it makes so much sense,” says Swathi Vanguri, MD, the obstetrician for both Macrone and Long.
Long-stay patients can become exhausted and emotionally overwrought and start to be irritable and non-compliant with staff, she says.
That didn’t happen with Macrone and Long because they had each other to nurture and support. “It means so much to their mental health while they’re here,” Dr. Vanguri says.
Reaching Out to Others
And when Macrone went home, Long befriended two patients with high-risk pregnancies who were admitted for long stays soon afterwards.
“I did what Camila had done for me,” Long says, providing support and companionship in what one nurse called a “really great example of the sisterhood, how women help each other out.”
The support helped Leslie Dunkelberger and Joanne Yoo get by.
“It was easy to form a bond since we were all going through similar things and trying our best to stay positive and make it towards our end goal,” Yoo says. “We celebrated each week we made it, and every milestone, and it really made the time go by a little faster.”
Macrone and Long had a condition called vasa previa, an abnormality in which a blood vessel from the umbilical cord runs through the amniotic sac rather than directly into the placenta. In both of their cases, the vessel blocked the cervix.
“If the cervix were to dilate or they were to go into labor or their water broke, the vessel could burst and cause severe bleeding,” Dr. Vanguri says. “Babies can die within minutes.”
Macron, of East Norriton, and Long, of Abington, were admitted at around 31 weeks of pregnancy. Macrone was admitted two weeks before Long, and both were scheduled for C-sections at 36 weeks.
They weren’t on bed rest, but could only leave the floor alone to go to the hospital cafeteria or sit on the balcony. When they went outside for fresh air every day, they were accompanied by a nurse.
Canine Support, Too
That was when Long met two beloved members of Macrone’s family: Maya, three and Bee, five, her rescue dogs.
“I was crying when I left for the hospital because I was afraid they’d forget me,” Macrone says. A sympathetic hospital social worker appealed to the medical staff, who agreed the dogs could visit her outside. “My husband brought them once or twice a week,” Macrone says.
Long recalls special moments at the start of the day, when she and Macrone next door were hooked up to fetal monitors so the medical team could check the well-being of their babies. In the quiet of the hospital morning, Long says, “I could sometimes hear her monitor and her baby’s heartbeat and she could hear my son’s heartbeat.”
Macrone gave birth to daughter Zoey on March 28. And just as she cried when she came to the hospital, she cried when she was discharged, too, as she and Long stood outside, hugging each other.
“It was so sad when I left,” Macrone says. “I cried so hard I got the hiccups.” She texted Long nearly every day, and came back to the hospital later in the week to drop off some snacks for her.
Long gave birth to Thomas on April 18 and was discharged April 22. She and Macrone continue to be in touch. Dunkelberger and Yoo also had successful deliveries.
Nurse Manager Melissa Hewitt, MSN, RNC-NIC, says the four long-stay patients endeared themselves to the staff as they “learned to make the best of a bad situation and lean on one another.”
As for Macrone and Long, she says: “They were perfect strangers and I can tell you from just being around them, they are going to have a lifelong friendship.”