Lauren Werner-Smith has been a nurse at Royal Jubilee Hospital for 10 years. She had no idea one of the most significant moments for her growing family would hinge on a tool used in the hospital operating room daily. A tool like the ones funded by donors to VHF’s recent Big Picture campaign.
Growing up on Vancouver Island, Lauren always knew she wanted to be a nurse. When Lauren was young, she was diagnosed with scoliosis. To remedy the severe curve in her spine, Lauren had life-saving surgery at 15 years old. Surgeons placed two rods along her spine, fused to vertebrae T2 to L1. This prevented damage to her heart, among other serious complications.
Years later, when she learned she was pregnant, Lauren worried about back pain. Though her pregnancy progressed normally, she and her doctors agreed. To avoid complications, she would undergo a C-section. Lauren would need an anesthetic injected into her spine.
Anesthesiologist Dr. Jacques Smit is an operating room colleague of Lauren’s. Before, during, and after surgery, he administers anesthetics for patients and manages their pain. Anticipating this, Lauren met with Dr. Smit for a consult.
In his office, he used the ultrasound on her back to determine where he could inject anesthetic. As a result of Lauren’s spinal surgery, he found that only two small vertebral spaces were accessible.
And then the day came. On February 25 , 2020 Lauren was admitted to Victoria General Hospital’s Maternity Unit. Dr. Smit used the ultrasound, holding it with one hand while he marked her skin with a pen in the other. These marks would guide him later in preparation for Lauren’s C-section. Without an ultrasound to guide delivery of anesthetic, chances of success on first attempt are low for complex cases. Multiple attempts increase the risk of infection, which often means resorting to general anesthetic.
In the Labour and Delivery Operating Room, Dr. Smit again picked up the ultrasound. The technology allowed him to deliver an anesthetic successfully on the first try. More than that though, it enabled Lauren to be awake for the birth of her baby, and for her husband to be there to share the experience.
“A general anesthetic would have been devastating,” says Lauren. “I would not have been awake. No one would have been allowed to be there.”
“It meant the world that Dr. Smit could successfully deliver the anesthetic via my back,” says Lauren.
The delivery was quick. Within an hour, Lauren and her husband welcomed their daughter, Shae.
“Thank you to donors for funding equipment like this, I am so grateful,” says Lauren. “One day, you or a loved one might need an ultrasound to make your procedure smoother and easier. Equipment you helped fund could make a big difference to your hospital experience.”