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New Directions

Issue: Winter

Suburban Hospital Pediatric Emergency Center: Where Little Things Mean a Lot

David Reitman, MD, Nicolle Sternberger and Peyton, Donna Seelye, RN, Saw Htun, MD
Peyton Sternberger came into the world September 14, 2011, weighing a healthy 8 pounds, 9 ounces. She joined proud parents Nicolle and Matthew and three-year-old sister Parker. Just three weeks after the Sternbergers brought their newborn home, however, their lives took a sudden and terrifying turn. “I woke up on a Sunday morning and felt Peyton and she was really hot,” remembers Nicolle Sternberger. “I took her temperature and it was over 101 degrees. I panicked.”

Sternberger called Peyton’s pediatrician, Dr. Robert Shearin, who instructed her to go immediately to the Suburban Hospital Pediatric Emergency Center.

At the hospital, Peyton was assessed by Dr. Saw Htun and Donna Seelye, R.N. “It’s unusual for a newborn to have a fever, especially one that high,” says Seelye. “In a case like this, you can’t leave any stone unturned.” Dr. Htun ordered a full workup on Peyton, including a urine analysis, blood tests and a spinal tap. “While we didn’t want to worry the family, we had a newborn with a fever without a clear cause, “says Dr. Htun. “We had to assume the possibility of a serious infection until we could prove otherwise.”

“I broke into tears when they told me they would have to do a spinal tap on Peyton,” Sternberger recalls. “But I also felt a certain peace of mind that we were in good hands. Everyone was so nice about answering every question, no matter how many times I asked. Their bedside manner was outstanding.”

When Peyton’s spinal tap tests showed an elevated white blood cell count, Dr. Htun suspected meningitis. The critical question was whether it was the potentially life-threatening bacterial meningitis or the more common viral meningitis, which usually clears up on its own. Dr. Htun immediately placed Peyton on IV antibiotics to cover the worst case.

Dr. Htun advised Sternberger that Peyton would have to be hospitalized for at least three days and placed in isolation until they could rule out bacterial meningitis. Mother and daughter soon settled into a private room. During the next few days, Peyton was closely monitored by a team that included Dr. Inna London and Carolyn Dzimiela, R.N., as well as the staff who admitted her. “Because the Center comprises both pediatric inpatient beds as well as emergency beds, patients are followed by the same team throughout their stay,” says Dzimiela. “This ensures a continuity of care that really makes a difference for both the patient and the family.”

For Sternberger, the consistent medical staff, comfortable environment and proximity to home made her and Peyton’s stay that much easier for everyone in the family. “It was heart wrenching to see Peyton with all the monitors and the IVs,” she says, “but I knew that we were in a great place and that Peyton was receiving the very best care.”

Throughout Peyton’s treatment, her medical team was in close contact with Dr. Shearin as well as infectious disease specialists at a local pediatric tertiary hospital. Within 72 hours of Peyton’s arrival at the Center, lab test results ruled out bacterial meningitis. Peyton was cleared to go home a day later. “All along, I felt that the medical team was really on top of the situation and had a good game plan,” says Dr. Shearin. “These are individuals who are trained and certified in pediatrics and have extensive experience in pediatric emergency medicine. They do a great job.”

Dr. David Reitman, chairman of pediatrics at Suburban Hospital, explains the concept behind the Center: “We offer an innovative model that integrates emergency and inpatient care in a seamless, age-appropriate and family-centered environment. We provide a level of very personalized, intimate care that our patients may not receive at a larger institution.”

For the Sternbergers, the fear they felt during those four days in October has turned to excitement over an upcoming house renovation that will provide plenty of room in which their two healthy girls can grow. “Peyton actually gained weight in the hospital,” says an amazed Sternberger. “She’s doing great now.”

Need help finding a pediatrician? Call 301-896-3939.

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