A relaxing trip to the Keys was how a Tampa couple expecting their first child planned to spend the last weekend in March. Instead, their “babymoon” turned into the surprise birth of their daughter Easter Sunday at Fisherman’s Community Hospital .
Jessica Hammond, 27, was 33 weeks pregnant when she started feeling contraction-like pain after dinner. She and husband Austin, 28, were mid-way through their vacation in Marathon, Fla. More than 100 miles away from a hospital with full maternity services, they went to nearby Fisherman’s Community Hospital to get checked out. Set up in a temporary field hospital since damage from Hurricane Irma left the main building shuttered, Fisherman’s nurses and doctors in front of the emergency entrance waved the couple inside.
“It was a little confusing at first, but I knew if I was in preterm labor, I wanted them to stop it,” Ms. Hammond said. “Then, when the doctor did an exam and found I was 5-6 centimeters dilated and the head was crowning, he said we were having a baby right now.”
Expectant dad Austin Hammond was just as surprised.
“Within 40 minutes of showing up at the hospital, we had a baby,” he said. “It was April Fool’s Day, Easter and a Blue Moon all at once.”
Fisherman’s Community Hospital Staff Delivers Baby
Coral Lynn Hammond was born at 3:42 a.m., Sunday, April 1. At seven weeks premature, she weighed 3 pounds, 12 ounces and 17 inches long. Fisherman’s hospital staff quickly coordinated with colleagues at sister hospital in South Miami to transport the baby to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) there.
“It was remarkable how the doctor and nurses were able to coordinate a special NICU transport and ambulance. They arrived at the ER in (South) Miami together and rolled in baby with momma,” said Mr. Austin, who rode in the ambulance with his wife. “Even though we couldn’t be with her [baby Coral] in the transport, it was as good as it could be being close to her in a caravan.”
Baby Coral is doing well, according to Elaine Matias, R.N., assistant nurse manager at South Miami Hospital’s NICU. “She’s feeding well and growing as expected for a premature baby her size,” Ms. Matias said. “With all the support she’s receiving, she’ll be able to join her family at home soon.”
Keeping Families Connected to Babies at South Miami Hospital NICU
And even though the Hammonds are in another city with their newborn, they’ve already introduced baby Coral to relatives back home. A special video-camera system, called NicView, allowed Coral’s grandfather to meet her soon after she was born. Using a password and WiFi or Internet connection, the 62 video cameras at South Miami Hospital’s Center for Women & Infants  allow parents of NICU babies to see their newborns remotely around the clock.
“We can’t say enough how great the staff was in the ER at Fisherman’s. The doctor and nurses were wonderful,” the Hammonds said. “And our experience and care at the NICU has been great.”
The event helped the couple decide on a name for their baby girl. They looked at their top five names on their drive down to the Keys, then discussed them again at dinner the night they went to the hospital. Because she was born in the Keys, she chose her own name, Ms. Hammond said.
People in the middle Keys needing hospital care since Category 4 Hurricane Irma blew through the area last fall have been treated in a temporary field hospital set up steps away from the original Fisherman’s Community Hospital building. Parent organization Baptist Health South Florida will soon replace the field hospital with a $3-million modular facility until an entirely new critical access hospital is built. The new, replacement hospital is expected to open in 2019 and cost about $40 million, including $15 million in philanthropic support to be raised through Baptist Health Foundation .
“We feel strongly that in order to have an active community, it’s important to have good healthcare,” said Rick Freeburg, chief executive officer of Fisherman’s and Mariners Hospitals. “This community needs a hospital, and we’re committed to providing it with one.”
The Hammonds couldn’t agree more.
“We’re just so thankful because the next hospital was another 45 minutes away,” they said. “It’s really a blessing that the hospital was still open, and they were able to take care of us.”