Birthdays are some of the best days.
They usually involve cake, balloons, presents or even a party with family and friends.
But when you celebrate your birthday, you probably don't think of the hospital where you were born — or the doctors and nurses who cared for you.
However, for Andrea and Scott McLean, the maternity center at Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton was one of the first stops on the birthday tour for their newborn son, Jeffery Scott McLean III — or J. Scott, for short — who was born on March 8, 2021. His stay at the hospital’s Sally and John Francis Tanner Neonatal ICU (NICU) — and the doctors and nurses who cared for him and his family — left an impact that will last a lifetime.
It started on Feb. 25, 2021, when Andrea was 26 weeks pregnant with J. Scott.
"I left work early that day because I was experiencing some fluid retention issues," said Andrea. "We didn't know what was going on and we wanted to get it checked out."
She and Scott immediately drove down from their home in Douglasville to see OB/GYN specialist Christopher Jewell, MD, with Carrollton OB/GYN.
"We drove to Carrollton to meet with Dr. Jewell, and he basically told us that we needed to check into the hospital immediately," said Andrea. "When we got to the hospital, we found out I was four centimeters dilated."
While a typical full-term pregnancy lasts around 40 weeks, J. Scott was coming nearly 14 weeks early.
Babies like J. Scott who are born before their due date — or premature babies — often need special care in the NICU until they grow strong enough to go home.
NICUs can be a frightening place for expecting families, but fortunately for Andrea and Scott and many other families across west Georgia, Tanner's NICU is one of the region's best.
"After they admitted us, they began administering medications to help keep J. Scott inside as long as possible — or for at least for 48 hours — so the doctor could give him some steroid shots to help with his lungs," said Scott.
The intervention was successful, and J. Scott remained inside. For the next 11 days, Andrea stayed in the maternity unit in the care of her labor and delivery team, which she and Scott said were nothing short of "phenomenal."
"The entire team was great. From the moment Andrea was admitted, the nurses made sure that we knew we were in good hands," said Scott.
On March 8, shortly after Andrea's 11th day in the hospital, she began experiencing contractions. Shatia Edwards, DO, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist with Carrollton Gynecology and Obstetrics, advised that Andrea needed an urgent C-section to avoid the risk of further complications.
"When I started having contractions, it felt like my room filled up with nurses," said Andrea. "Dr. Edwards came in and asked if she could pray with us. As soon as she started, the whole room got quiet, and everyone held hands and prayed with us before they took me back for surgery."
That night, J. Scott was born, and he spent four days in the NICU when they learned he had a small hole in his intestine that would require surgery.
"On our fourth day in the NICU, we learned that J. Scott's belly was swelling, and they needed to transport him to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta for surgery," said Andrea. "The surgery at Children's went great, but everything was moving so fast. Through it all, I'm glad I had such a great team at Tanner. They were all outstanding — everybody – from the anesthesiologist to the surgical prep team to my OB/GYNs and Dr. Edwards to our nurses."
While Tanner's labor and delivery teams are known for going the extra mile for families in the maternity center, Andrea and Scott said it was how hard the team worked to make them feel like family that made all the difference.
"The night J. Scott was born, a nurse from the NICU came to tell us that he would be alright," said Scott. "It was that reassurance, our faith, prayers, and family that helped us believe that he would be just fine."
At Tanner, Andrea and Scott learned that they were never alone.
"Mrs. Lisa, one of my nurses, talked me through getting the epidural for my C-section," said Andrea. "She just kept reminding me that everything was fine. After I delivered J. Scott, they transferred me to the post-partum area, and even though she was working in the labor and delivery unit, she would come by my room to visit. That meant a lot to me."
Scott remembered those visits, too.
"There were times when nurses who worked in other departments would come from across the hospital to see us. They were awesome. They took care of everything, including me," he said. "I know it's a small thing, but even with food — if they brought food for Andrea, they brought some for me too."
And the clinical experience was evident as well.
"We had a lot of seasoned nurses taking care of us," Andrea said. "Some of them told us they had been at Tanner for 30 years. One of my nurses, Mrs. Lisa, was great at setting my IVs. Our other nurses, Missie and Alice, ensured we had everything we needed. They were all so kind and generous. And it was funny because some of them were pregnant just like I was, so it was like they knew what I was going through.
"Even the room we stayed in was nice; it was called the Sunflower Room. One day, Dr. Edwards told me how it's common to feel 'cabin fever' waiting inside the room all day, so she said that I should go for a walk on the walking trail outside the hospital. Our nurse Mrs. Donna came and took me on a walk and we would just sit and talk."
This level of care has become synonymous with Tanner, and it's what Andrea said helped her family through.
On May 28, J. Scott was finally ready to go home, where he would meet his older sister, 5-year-old Ashlynn "Gracie" Grace McLean, who was eager to meet him too.
"Gracie is a big fan of unicorns and the Disney movie ‘Encanto,’ but the thing she was most excited about is helping take care of her brother," said Andrea. "She loves her little brother! She helps get his bottles ready, gives him his pacifier, and sings to him — she is like a 'little momma' who helps take care of him. And he loves her, too. She was the first one to make him laugh."
Today, Andrea said J. Scott is growing up strong. For his first birthday, she made a trip to Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton to visit the team who had cared for them while she was pregnant.
"I wanted to go back to share photos of J. Scott and tell them all how he was doing and how far he's come from weighing 2 pounds 9 ounces at birth to almost 20 pounds at his last checkup," said Andrea. "He's gotten so big now. He's crawling around, pulling himself up, and he even has a few teeth coming in! It's all been such a blessing, and we have Tanner to thank for the care they gave us."
To learn more about maternity care and the NICU services at Tanner, visit tanner.org/nicu-services.
Donate to Tanner's NICU Fund
Click the link below to learn more about the NICU Fund at Tanner and to make a donation through Tanner Foundation:
Giving Opportunities | NICU Fund - Tanner Foundation