YVMC pays for a newborn’s flight from Denver hospital back to Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

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YVMC pays for a newborn’s flight from Denver hospital back to Steamboat

Hospital pays for mom, child to be flown from Denver

Jessica McCullough holds her baby





Jessica McCullough holds her baby, Oliver, who was born Nov. 23 at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver. Yampa Valley Medical Center paid to fly Oliver and Jessica to Steamboat Springs, and the family is hoping that Oliver will be able to leave the hospital and go home to Hayden soon.
John F. Russell

— Jessica McCullough is a proud new mother. She's also thankful.

After spending the first 28 days of her son's life at a Denver hospital, Yampa Valley Medical Center agreed to do what her insurance company wouldn't: pay to send her home.

"It's really meant more than what I could put into words," McCullough said Tuesday. "The people (at YVMC) are amazing, and they do wonderful things for the people in our community. We should all be grateful. I know I am."

In November, the Hayden resident was getting ready to visit Boulder to see her alma mater Kansas State University play football against the University of Colorado. But she wasn't feeling well. She thought the swelling, headaches and stomach pain were just symptoms of her pregnancy.

But she decided to see her Steamboat doctor, Mary Bow­man, who diagnosed her with pre-eclampsia, a condition that causes high blood pressure. It can be cured only by giving birth, although expectant mothers with more mild cases can often manage the condition until the baby is developed enough to be delivered.

McCullough was transported to Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver. Three days later, on Nov. 23, 2010, she gave birth to Oliver Joseph Quigley. He weighed 2 pounds, 15 1/2 ounces and was 15 1/4 inches long. He was small but healthy.

Baby Oliver spent his first 28 days in Denver until he was old enough to return to YVMC. But there was a problem. McCullough said her insurance wouldn't pay to cover the costs to transfer Oliver because such a move wasn't medically necessary.

She said they were desperate to get home. Oliver's father, Robert, could make the seven-hour, round-trip trek from their Hayden home to Denver and back only on weekends. McCullough said that month was the hardest of her life.

Then they received a gift. YVMC case manager Jane Howell arranged for the hospital to cover the costs to fly McCullough and Oliver on Dec. 16 from Centennial Airport in Engle­wood to Yampa Valley Reg­ional Airport.

So while they're not quite home, they're a lot closer.

McCullough spends most days in a room across the hall from Oliver in YVMC's Family Birth Center, where he remains in the special care nursery. She's able to continue to work, remotely, as an equipment account supervisor for TIC while she keeps close watch on her growing baby boy. Robert visits during lunch and after he gets off work as a carpenter in Steamboat Springs.

"I just want our community to know what wonderful resource we have with people who will go out of their way to help," McCullough said about YVMC.

YVMC spokeswoman Chris­tine McKelvie said the hospital builds patient financial assistance into its annual budgets. She said the hospital provided $4.3 million in financial assistance during the 2009-10 fiscal year, up from $3.7 million in 2008-09.

McKelvie said the estimated cost to the hospital of the flight is $13,290 but the benefit to the family is priceless.

"It's a way of taking care of our community," she said. "We're a nonprofit hospital. It allows us to give back to our patients."

McCullough said she expects to have Oliver home in the next two weeks. George Dewiler, a registered nurse in the special care nursery that provides care for babies with a gestational age of 32 weeks and older, said Oliver can go home when he's feeding properly.

On Tuesday, McCullough said Oliver consumed the contents of an entire baby bottle, a feat she called a "huge milestone." She said he's up to 5 pounds, 5 ounces. And in his first six weeks, McCullough said Oliver is calm, sleeps a lot and rarely cries — traits she hopes he maintains but joked weren't likely to continue.

McCullough said having Oliver was the best thing she's ever done.

"It's amazing. I never knew I could love someone so much, especially after just meeting him," she said. "I'm going to love being a mom, especially after we'll be able to go home."

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 871-4203 or e-mail jweinstein@steamboatpilot.com