Twenty-seven years ago, Chelsea’s mother developed high blood pressure during her pregnancy and was rushed from Fort Walton Beach to Ascension Sacred Heart Pensacola. Chelsea was born by emergency C-section at 26 weeks, weighing a little over 16 ounces and was slightly longer than a ruler. The primary NICU nurse caring for Chelsea later inspired her to become a nurse.
“At that time, resuscitating babies that small wasn’t common,” Chelsea said. “My parents said I was a fighter and super strong, but I believe the care of my nurses and family got me through it.”
When Chelsea was thinking about a future career, she initially wanted to be an engineer like her dad. But after reconnecting with Leslynne Green, the Ascension Sacred Heart NICU nurse, she changed plans.
“After reconnecting with Leslynne, I set my sights on going to nursing school and dreamt of becoming a nurse,” she said. “It took me a little bit longer than planned to realize my dream, but I’m so glad I persevered.”
As Northwest Florida’s only Level 3 NICU hospital, Chelsea cares for the tiniest, most fragile patients. Studer Family Children’s Hospital recently started a Small Baby Program that cares for micro preemies, babies born between 22 to 28 weeks, with some weighing as little as 12 ounces — less than Chelsea weighed when she was born.
“When parents are going through a really hard time, I share my story to give them a ray of hope during the dark days in the NICU,” she said. “There are some really amazing days when we see our smallest babies grow and ‘graduate’ to a step-down unit and finally get to go home.”
Chelsea said there are several patient families she’s kept in contact with over the years.
“I see their updates on social media and we talk every now and then,” she said. “It’s really awesome to keep in touch with them and see their infants mature and grow.”