Remarkable teamwork, remarkable outcomes

Nurses are known for their clinical expertise, compassion and humility as well as a deep appreciation for their care team members. That’s why UW Health RNs often refer to nursing as a “team sport”— to recognize the hard work of their peers and the resulting positive patient outcomes.

Ross’ surprise reunion with his nurses

Following a harrowing car crash in 2020, Ross Kopfer spent more than 60 days at University Hospital fighting for his life. In 2022, Ross was interviewed about his experience and expressed appreciation for his nurses. Little did he know that all his nurses were around the corner to surprise him after his interview, which made for an emotional reunion.

Patient Ross Kopfer is forever grateful for the nurses who he says saved his life: Trauma and Life Support Center nurses Dave Schambow and Jennifer Milz (far left), Trauma and Surgical Unit nurses Lisa Pine (embracing Ross), Kelsey Spaith-Hilton (behind Lisa), Jessica Fall (center) and Vanessa Gates (third from left).

Kingston’s inspiring journey

When Tommy Wragg received the news in 2018 that his son, Kingston, had a rare condition at 3 months old, he never imagined the unbelievable journey that lay ahead at American Family Children’s Hospital.

When a kidney transplant was inevitable, Tommy helped manage an extensive medial protocol for several months to support Kingston while his body had time to grow. Complications arose a year later, requiring hospitalization for two years until Kingston was finally ready to receive his transplant in June 2022.

After a two-year hospital stay, Kingston Wraggs and his dad, Tommy, received a grand send-off from the care team members at American Family Children’s Hospital in June 2022.

Tommy, who has been a single dad since Kingston was 10 months old, was touched by the endless compassion they received along the way from nearly 40 nurses and care team members from the Pediatric Nephrology Program, Pediatric Transplant Program, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Child Life services and others.

“Kingston’s relationship with his nurses is where everything came full circle,” he said. “He was no longer lacking a mom. They became family.”

Tommy says the endless comfort and care Kingston received from his nurses was remarkable.

Teamwork results in new life for a young mother

At 37 weeks pregnant, Darlene was infected with COVID-19. She declined rapidly, doctors delivered her baby and she was admitted to the ICU at UW Health SwedishAmerican Hospital in Rockford, Ill., where she spent two months.

Darlene continued to decline and her care team worried that she wouldn’t survive. But she continued to fight and it was determined she needed a lung transplant. Only one program would accept her: The UW Health Lung Transplant Program.

Over the next four months, a comprehensive team of caregivers worked to get Darlene strong enough to be eligible for transplant, which finally happened in March 2022. Darlene returned home 10 months after she was first hospitalized.

“It was so rewarding to see how someone as sick as she was, make it through,” said Brittany Schappe, BSN, CCRN, Cardiothoracic Surgery Unit at University Hospital. “She could finally go home, and she came out stronger.”

“I had so many wonderful caregivers,” Darlene said (pictured with husband, Lincoln, and kids) of the nurses, doctors, specialists, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech therapists who cared for her. “And my daughters were the driving force behind my recovery.”

Performing a lifesaving procedure for the first time

In September 2022, the perioperative team at American Family Children’s Hospital received a referral for a fetal EXIT (ex-utero intrapartum treatment) procedure on a pregnant mom — something they had never done before, given that they rarely deliver babies.

“We had only heard about the procedure because Dr. Lobeck was heading a study to get a fetal program started,” said Aimee Muchie, BSN, RN, manager, perioperative services. “The procedure is needed when a baby is having developmental issues with its airway due to a blockage. If the baby is born with no intervention, it is not able to breathe.”

The operating team would need to perform a Cesarean section and meticulously control the bleeding to allow the surgeon to go into the uterus, take out the baby’s head, neck and one extremity, with the anesthesia team placing lines. The otolaryngology surgeon would then establish an airway while the baby was still attached to the mom.

“We hadn’t received any education, so we had about seven weeks to plan, order the correct instrumentation and determine what to expect,” Aimee said. Pressure mounted when they received word that the baby was having trouble and the procedure would take place two weeks earlier than expected. “We had to make it happen. If we weren’t ready, the baby would be delivered normally and likely die.”

Aimee said their team got “in the zone,” and performed the procedure successfully. The baby was then transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Both Aimee and Inna Lobeck, MD, pediatric general surgeon, attribute the success to the exceptional coordination orchestrated by the nurses and all teams — anesthesia, instrumentation, NICU, otolaryngology, perioperative — and all support services involved.

“It’s astonishing to think what we accomplished,” Aimee said, sharing that the team faced another fetal EXIT procedure just four weeks later and that it “went off without a hitch.”

When faced with performing a high-risk fetal EXIT procedure for the first time, several teams at American Family Children’s Hospital rallied together and saved a life

Check out more stories featuring the great work of our nurses in the 2022 Nursing Annual Report (pdf).