Video conference allows father to see daughter’s birth at Alegent Health Bergan Mercy Medical Center
OMAHA, Neb. – Alex and Shannon Wilterdink welcomed Adalie Faith to the world Monday morning, July 6, 2009 at Alegent Health Bergan Mercy Medical Center. Everything went smoothly. Mom was focused, her nurse was encouraging and dad was cheering them both on – from a Marine base in Iraq.
When Sergeant Wilterdink shipped out to Iraq in January 2009 from Camp Pendleton, he knew he and his wife were expecting their first child. Rather than go it alone in California, Shannon moved back to Omaha to be with her family hoping that her husband could be there too. Even if he couldn’t be there in person, she wanted him to still be a part of the event, so she contacted the Freedom Calls Foundation - which operates call centers at seven military camps in Iraq and Kuwait and conducts some 2,000 video teleconferences a month. They reached out to Alegent Health and began the technical conversation on how to connect Bergan Mercy Medical Center with Iraq.
"It was bugging me that I was going to miss this. I took it hard when I realized I wasn't going to be able to be,” said Alex. Technology made sure that Alex could be there in body and spirit. But the journey wasn’t an easy one. Shannon was due to be induced on Monday, July 6. On Friday, July 3, she learned that sandstorms in Iraq were making travel and communications difficult around Alex’s base. Although she tried to stay calm, her heart was breaking. Maybe it was the anxiety of situation or perhaps the baby knew something her parents didn’t because Sunday night, Shannon went into labor just as the weather cleared - allowing both parents to be in the same room to welcome their daughter into the world.
“This was a great experience," Alex said. "It's the best we can get, short of me being there."
"It was like he was there, he calmed me down. It would have been really hard if I hadn’t of had him there with me," Shannon said. “I really appreciate how much work everyone put into this. It didn’t happen like we’d planned it, but everyone came to the hospital late Sunday and stayed through the night to help us stay connected. They did it for us – they weren’t getting anything out of it. I was the one getting something out of this.”
Sean McFadden, M.D., delivered the 7 pound, 6 oz. baby at 8:43 a.m. ”As a physician, I feel the birth of a child should be shared by the whole family. It was an honor to be a part of this technology that blessed this family with sharing an experience that would not have ordinarily happened. I hope that Alex has a safe return home from his tour in Iraq. It was my pleasure to be a part of this.”
Alex is due to come back to the states in late August. It will be the first time he will hold and kiss his daughter, but not the first time he will have seen her.
About Alegent Health
Alegent Health is the largest not-for-profit, faith-based healthcare system in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa with 10 hospitals, more than 100 sites of service, over 1,300 physicians on its medical staff and 9,000 employees. Alegent Health is ranked first in the country in quality and patient satisfaction according to the Network for Regional healthcare Improvement (NRHI). That exceptional commitment to providing patient focused care for the body, mind and spirit of every person keeps Alegent Health faithful to its Mission, which was inspired by its sponsors, Catholic Health Initiatives and Immanuel Health Systems. At Alegent Health, patients and their families find a continuum of care, from women's and children's services, primary care, wellness counseling, and senior care to cardiovascular services, orthopaedics, oncology, physical rehabilitation and behavioral health. Alegent Health is online at alegent.com