Navy sailor Nathan Chandler and his wife, Erica, were preparing to greet their first child when, at just over 35 weeks, they learned that they would need an emergency C-section. This premature birth would make a long stay in the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital necessary.
At first, they paid out of pocket to stay at a hotel about 20 minutes from the hospital. They were hoping to take their newborn, Henry, home quickly, but learned that he was sometimes ceasing to breath while feeding or traveling in a car seat.
After they learned they would be staying a little longer, they took the advice of a case worker to use Fisher House Foundation’s Hotel for Heroes program.
“I like to think I’m pretty proud, and it sounded like charity, so I refused it in the beginning,” Nathan said. “Then I realized this could be a big help. We’d be literally down the street from the hospital, and it would take off one less stressful thing. Especially with having a baby in the NICU, commuting long distances, wife recovering from a C-section. It was pretty stressful.”
All the emotions of having a premature baby, recovering from an emergency C-section, and being away from family hit Erica all at once as they switched hotels.
“The hotel we had paid for, we were 20 minutes away,” Erica said. “The hotel we got from [Fisher House], we were 30 seconds away. It was amazing. And the staff at the hotel, on day one, I had gotten a room and check-in was at, I think 3, and I called the hotel at noon, crying because I was so tired. And the woman was like, ‘Honey, come now. We have a room for you. Just come.’ They didn’t care that we were early. She even had a nice setup for me in the room with water and snacks.”
Erica and Nathan worked together in those tough, early days of caring for a premature baby.
“I think our marriage at that point kind of took a back burner to a degree,” Erica said. “And I think that we both just focused on getting our son home. At that point we kind of looked at it as a team and when one person couldn't handle it anymore, we’d switch. Nathan, if he just hit a wall and couldn't do it anymore, then I jump in and I take over. And when I hit that wall, he would jump in and take over.”
Henry is sleeping and eating safely now, and the family is enjoying their time at home. They did wish that they could make one change, though.
“Part of me wishes we had learned about Fisher House earlier.”