LOGAN, Utah (AP) — On her days off work, it's not unusual for a stranger to stop Elizabeth Anderson in the grocery store with an exclamation of, "You helped me deliver my baby!"
Anderson, who goes by Liz while working as a registered nurse in the neonatal care unit at Logan Regional Hospital, admits she doesn't remember each mother and baby she's helped over the years, but she's pleasantly surprised when one remembers her.
In 28 years as a nurse — including 15 in Logan — Anderson has seen a lot of babies. Most start out small, sick and struggling, but with Anderson's help, leave the hospital healthy and on their way home.
Anderson, a Mendon resident, got her associate's degree in nursing from Brigham Young University and started working as an RN in 1984 at the University of Utah. She worked in pediatrics for 18 months before moving to the Ogden area, where she eventually worked her way into the neonatal unit and was certified as a lactation consultant.
"I always knew I wanted to work with babies," she told The Herald Journal (http://bit.ly/P3jD1i).
While raising her own children, Anderson worked part-time, benefiting from the flexible hours and using her skills to help in her own family.
In 1997, the family moved to Cache Valley and she began working at Logan Regional Hospital, where the neonatal unit has the capability of handling up to about 20 babies who need special care, but which averages between eight and 12 on any given day.
The job can get hectic, Anderson says. During her 12-hour shifts (5 a.m. to 5 p.m.), she rarely gets time to even sit down.
"Sometimes it's just stressful," she said. "You're just really busy."
At least one nurse from the neonatal unit is in the room for each delivery — whether it's routine or not — to determine whether the baby is healthy or if she or he needs to be moved into the special-care unit.
As part of her responsibilities while working one recent Friday, Anderson checked in on 5-day-old Tyler Barrow, who is spending a few days in the unit to put on more weight before heading home. The infant was born full term but was small — just over 5 pounds — and struggled to eat on his own. Within a few hours of his birth, Tyler was moved into Anderson's unit.
She explained that as a nurse, she's looking for certain criteria before little Tyler — and others like him — can go home. In addition to being able to eat enough on their own (not through a feeding tube), the babies need to gain a certain amount of weight, be capable of staying warm in an open crib and have good vital signs.
Tyler is a relatively "easy" baby for the unit, but Anderson has seen her share of challenges over the years.
Logan Regional Hospital's neonatal care unit is a level 2B, which means it does not keep babies born earlier than 32 weeks gestation or with severe problems. While it does provide some specialty care — including assisted breathing for brief periods — the sickest babies are sent to Ogden or Salt Lake City.
Seeing babies born with genetic diseases and heart defects tug at Anderson's heart strings. Sometimes there's only so much doctors and nurses can do, and often, those babies are sent to Ogden or Salt Lake City, where the units at those hospitals have more options in caring for the infants.
Anderson said sometimes she'll find out what happens to those babies she sends off, but other times she doesn't hear anything. While she works to be professional in her job, Anderson also sympathizes with parents struggling with a very sick newborn.
"It's very rewarding that you're stabilizing babies and helping families," she said, "but it's also very hard because I'm a parent, too."
Information from: The Herald Journal, http://www.hjnews.com