Skip to main content

Establishing the WakeMed NICU Library: The Ethridges’ Story

Before we helped establish a NICU library at WakeMed, our connection to WakeMed began with our own NICU story…

During most of my pregnancy with my son, Pearson, I had placenta previa. On the morning of October 29, I was finally cleared for a vaginal delivery at his 36-week checkup. Well, apparently the check went a little too smooth, and I started laboring around 5:15 that evening.

We went to Halloween story time that night where I waddled back and forth to the bathroom many times while my daughter, Pacey, and my husband, Ryan, enjoyed the festivities. After we put Pacey to sleep, I felt things speed up and decided to lay down, but it didn’t help.

Pearson decided he was coming that night…in our tiny upstairs bathroom with just me, Ryan, and his aunt, LauraAnn there to help bring him into this world!.

We made our voyage to the hospital in the ambulance – with the lights flashing and sirens blaring due to my high blood pressure. After I delivered my placenta at the hospital that evening, we thought the craziness was behind us and that we were settling in for a routine easy one- or two-night hospital stay.


pearson ethridge

An Unexpected Stay in the NICU

The next afternoon, Pearson’s bilirubin started increasing to unsafe levels. He was put on a bili light bed, and we thought we knew the drill (as Pacey had jaundice).

Wrong again.

The next evening, while Ryan and Pacey were out trick-or-treating on Halloween, Dr. Flannelly (one of our pediatricians) came by and decided it was best to consult with the NICU neonatologist. Later, the physician’s assistant showed up and told me Pearson was moving to the NICU for intense photolight therapy.

After a very stressful night and majority of the next day in the NICU with many unanswered questions, we learned that Pearson had ABO incompatibility – basically, my blood cells were attacking his and breaking them down. We also learned his insulin levels were low and his bilirubin levels were very close to the point of needing a blood transplant.

He was incubated while under the lights and only removed for heel pricks and feedings every three hours. We did this for six long days and nights. Then, on the seventh day, we were able to test the waters. His numbers stayed in the normal range, and we got to go home after many boxes were checked.

During our week-long NICU stay I felt like a crazy lady. I “slept” on a sofa-bed for 6 long nights while Ry slept in the recliner. I walked on egg shells and relied heavily on prayer. And I endured this all while I was in the early days of postpartum life.

As uncomfortable as this experience was, Ryan and I kept reminding ourselves that we were probably the luckiest family in the entire NICU. Pearson was in an incubator, and while he wasn’t completely healthy, we never really felt like his life was in danger. The same cannot be said for most of the other families sharing that space with us, whose babies were clinging to life by a thread.


Inspiration to Start the NICU Library at WakeMed

We couldn’t begin to imagine what it was like for those families, who stayed in the NICU on an average of 9 weeks – 17 weeks for babies born at 23 weeks – and endured all the worries and stresses that come along with it. So, seeing how we loved reading, we wanted to give parents and babies at the WakeMed NICU some early education tools and spread a little love. We also figured that parents were stressed enough and wouldn’t think to bring their own books to the NICU.

FullSizeRender 5

Raising Funds for the NICU Library

I have a wonderful childhood friend named Jill McCann. She’s an Usborne representative, and she was the mastermind behind creating a “bookraiser” that allowed people to either donate books or purchase their own books that would add to the proceeds.

I was in awe of how many people were willing to give and purchase books for an awesome cause. In the end, we raised around $960 in books. It was above and beyond what we expected.

FullSizeRender 9

What Makes the WakeMed NICU Library Unique

One of the things that makes the NICU library unique is the fact that we chose books that are developmentally appropriate for the NICU patients as well as their siblings. There’s a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction books.

We really hope that this new library will give parents and other loved ones another way to nurture and love their growing babies while they are in the NICU. Early reading skills greatly impact children as they enter school and, eventually, the working world.

More than anything, we want families to know that they are seen and that there are people supporting them during this stressful journey…even in small ways.

FullSizeRender 7

Pearson-118About Katie & Ryan Ethridge

Katie is a stay-at-home mom, and Ryan works as an attorney. They love spending time outdoors with their two children and their golden retriever. They also enjoy spending time with their extended family, and they love to watch sports – especially UNC.

Donating to the NICU Library

*Interested in donating to the WakeMed NICU library? Contact information is below. We also encourage you to learn more about the NICU Advisory & Parent Support (NAPS).

LaToshia Rouse
Parent Partner/Co-chair NAPS of WakeMed