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Featured / Opinion / Virgin Islands / May 10, 2015

ST. CROIX — We had no idea that our lives were set to change forever. Natasha McFarlane, the sister of my wife, Charlene Gilbert, encouraged her sibling to purchase a pregnancy test device because she dreamed of babies belonging to my wife, crying aloud.

We listened, and gave Ed Charles, my cousin who was visiting us that day, the money to purchase the test at Plaza Extra East. He came back immediately and Charlene wasted no time putting the device to good use.

“Babe, I’m pregnant,” she said minutes later, staring at the test device while occasionally looking at me. This was special to us because we’d lost a son four years ago, named Ethan David, while he was yet in his mother’s womb. He was old enough be buried; and a funeral was held at the Kingshill cemetery.

From Left, Charlene McFarlane-Gilbert, Shanice Grace Gilbert and Joelle Sargeant-Suite

Charlene Gilbert and nurse Joelle Sargeant-Suite buckle Shanice Grace Gilbert.

Initially, we visited the Charles Harwood Hospital and received excellent attention there for the new pregnancy. In fact, it was at Charles Harwood my wife and I learned we were having twins.

Charlene gave birth to two beautiful babies on March 9, boy and girl, named Elijah Ernice and Shanice Grace. They were born at 32 weeks — 8 weeks before their original due date, weighing in at about 3 lbs. 1 oz. each, and have been doing extremely well, and growing very fast.

But while my wife did all in her power to assure that her twins were safe in her womb, it was the exceptional care of the Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center’s postpartum staff that made all the difference; beginning with Dr. Olivine A. Treasure, OBGYN during pregnancy, and the facility’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), after they were born.

Twice, Dr. Treasure recommended that Charlene be admitted to the hospital’s postpartum unit during the pregnancy, taking every precaution because the gestation was high risk. However, usually, when you’re told that you’ll be spending some time in the hospital, most people become morose.

But my wife was okay resting a few days at JFL because the care, especially from postpartum nurses, was bar none. They delivered meals on time; were always helpful; their demeanor and countenance never gave off hints of frustration; they would always smile — and when even I, as the husband and then-soon-to-be father became weary of the back-and-forth, the nurses, like professionals well-trained in the field of hospitality, never modified their attitudes.

NICU Head Lisa Allred

NICU Head Lisa Allred

On the day of the children’s birth, the transition from postpartum to delivery room and to the NICU, was seamless and masterfully carried out. Dr. Treasure wanted me to experience the birth while she and the other professionals delivered the babies, but Charlene would not fall asleep during the caesarean. I was told to go sit in a waiting room while the operation was ongoing.

Not too long after, Dr. Treasure conveyed to me the exciting news: the babies were delivered successfully, and that my wife was resting. I was then directed to wait in the NICU where the little ones would eventually spend one and a half weeks.

What a memorable time it was with the nurses of the NICU.

Let me let you in on a secret: JFL’s NICU nurses are the best the world has to offer. Before our babies were born, people advised that we should leave St. Croix and head to Florida because the care here is below par. However, the experience we had while our premature new births grew strong at NICU, will stay with us and shared with generations to come as some of the most joyful, remarkable and cherished memories of our  lives.

Under the direction of Dr. Lisa Allreds, the professional nurses, atypical in their efforts to deliver care beyond what’s expected, nourished the babies as if they were their own. From Faye John-Baptist, RN Nurse Manager at JFL, to staff nurses, Joelle Sargeant-Suite, Laurel Browne and the remaining, outstanding staff of the NICU, Charlene and I were at ease in our minds because we knew Shanice and her brother were in good hands.

Charlene Gilbert and Faye John-Baptiste at Charlene's baby shower.

Charlene Gilbert and Faye John-Baptiste at Charlene’s baby shower.

Like every other medical facility, there is no question that JFL has its share of problems, which was magnified when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) threatened to decertify the hospital if overhauls weren’t made to the many facets of its operation.  The facility’s officials are currently in the middle of a Systems Improvement Agreement (SIA) with CMS, and according to hospital CEO Kendall Griffith, the SIA was 85 percent complete in early March, and would be 99 percent finished by the end of the same month.

Today, Shanice Grace and Elijah Ernice are two months, 1 day old. Had they remained in their mother’s womb for the full cycle, the twins would have been born on Saturday, May 9. They were projected to stay at the NICU for about three weeks, but were allowed to leave in half the time because their progress was excellent.

Now, we have a bouncing boy and girl, growing, smiling, crying, sleeping eating, eating and, yes, eating. Especially the boy.

Their personalities seem quite different, too, with Shanice Grace being rather strong-willed yet peaceful and calm, while Elijah Ernice seems to only care about food for the time being, and cries to the top of his lungs if it’s not provided immediately after he wakes up. Family and friends say the boy looks like his mom, while Shanice looks like her dad. I tend to agree.

My wife and I are enjoying every moment of it, and from our hearts to yours, the staff and nurses at JFL’s postpartum and NICU departments, thank you.

Correction: May 10, 2015

A previous version of this story misspelled the name of St. Croix’s Memorial Hospital, located is Christiansted, which is now the Dept. of Health complex. The correct spelling is Charles Harwood, and not Charles Howard. The story has been updated to reflect the correct information.


Feature Image: JFL’s postpartum nurses pose for a picture.

Image Credit: VI Consortium

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Ernice Gilbert
I wear many hats, I suppose, but the one which fits me best would be journalism, second to that would be radio personality, thirdly singer/songwriter and down the line. I've been the Editor-In-Chief at my videogames website, Gamesthirst, for over 5 years, writing over 7,000 articles and more than 2 million words. I'm also very passionate about where I live, the United States Virgin Islands, and I'm intent on making it a better place by being resourceful and keeping our leaders honest. VI Consortium was birthed out of said desire, hopefully my efforts bear fruit. Reach me at [email protected]

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