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It’s not storks that deliver at St. Luke’s, but an amazing team that saves lives in the process

Shandra Sterner leaving St. Luke's Magic Valley with Greg Olson, holding baby Kyler, plus Kaisyn (4) and twins Adalyn and Aleehia (6).
By Kelly Franson, News and Community
October 25, 2022

It was an August baby boom at St. Luke’s Magic Valley, with a record 196 deliveries in a single month!

August, it seems, is when things really get cooking in Twin Falls on the baby front; the previous record was one year earlier, with 185 deliveries and 188 babies in August of 2021.

Each birth has its own story (and some count for more in more than one way; multiples, for example, count as a single delivery, so with the two sets of twins born in Twin Falls, there were 198 babies total this past August), and some stand out a little more than others.

The first birth of the month this past August involved a mother who was probably hoping for a July arrival—she was more than two weeks past her due date. The final birth of the month was a quick delivery for a mother who was only in labor about four hours.

But it was August birth No. 151 that brought departments across the hospital together for an all-hands effort.

“There are a lot of cases that you remember for one reason or another,” said Stacy Greaves, a labor and delivery nurse, “but not many that keep you awake at night, make you hug your family a little tighter and ultimately be incredibly thankful for the amazing team you work beside.

“The Sterner case was that for all of us.”

Sterner's twins Adalyn and Aleehia and son Kaisyn await her discharge from St. Luke's Magic Valley on Sept. 1.

Shandra Sterner and Greg Olson arrived at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center around 7 a.m. on Aug. 23.  Shandra knew it might be a long wait before their baby boy made an appearance, but she had been through childbirth before, with 6-year-old twin daughters Adalyn and Aleehia and 4-year-old son Kaisyn.

Baby Kyler’s delivery would be very different.

Standard C-sections routinely involve a team of eight: two registered nurses, a nurse anesthetist, one scrub tech, one surgeon and one surgical assistant for the mother, as well as one NICU nurse and a respiratory therapist for the baby. Kyler’s arrival involved many more.

“There were at least 50 people in and out of our operating room, said Andrea Blackburn, director of women’s and children’s nursing and patient care. “We’re definitely considering this a huge team win, hospital-wide. There are so many departments to recognize.”

While much of Sterner’s experience that day was a blur, there are people that stand out in her memory, including nurse anesthetist Rafferty Sorensen.

“He never once left my side,” Sterner said. “I was so scared when they took Greg out and I was alone, but he did a phenomenal job keeping me calm and keeping me alive.” 

“It is one of those cases that will stick with me for the rest of my life,” Sorensen said. “Everyone stepped up, from the nursing staff, pharmacy, our hospitalists, blood bank and our anesthesia team who even came in from home on their day off to help out. I'm proud to be part of that team!”

Olson will always remember seeing the doctors walk through the waiting room doors. The masks couldn’t hide the joy on their faces. 

Sterner spent a little more than a week in the hospital. Among her visitors: labor and delivery nurse Stacy Greaves, who was warmly welcomed by Shandra’s mother.

The family, pictured in October 2022.

“Her mother opened her arms, hugged me and handed me her sweet babe,” Greaves said.

“All I could think of was, this tiny child had no idea how strong his mother was, and I wondered if he would ever really understand how hard she fought …”

Sterner may not remember all the dramatic details, but Olson will never forget. 

“I remember it all as clear as can be,” he said. “It was the worst week of my life, but also the best, getting to meet my son.” 

When Sterner was released from the hospital Sept. 1, members of her care team gathered with her family for a surprise celebration outside. She was met with cheers and balloons, and teared up while talking to her care team.

“I knew I had to be there, to witness that moment with my own eyes,” said Greaves, who joined the celebration on her day off. 

Sterner wasn’t the only one with tears in her eyes. 

“We take this kind of stuff home with us, and it’s just awesome to have a great outcome,” Blackburn said.

It was a great outcome for the now family of six, all of which mom is grateful for.

“Thank you so much for everybody that saved my life and made sure I was able to come home to my kids,” Sterner said.

And back to business as usual for the labor and delivery team, starting another month of babies and birth stories … .

Delivery experience leads to creation of blood donation event

Sterner didn’t realize how important it is for healthy people to give blood until she started bleeding uncontrollably after baby Kyler’s birth.

Sterner needed 88 units of blood over a four-day stretch while her medical team worked to locate the source of the bleeding and save her life. The average human body has the equivalent of 10 blood units, which means Shandra’s total blood volume had to be replaced more than eight times.

“While we do carry a large supply of blood products on hand, we did lean on the American Red Cross and their couriers to replenish our supply quickly,” said Melissa Homolka, a laboratory supervisor at St. Luke’s Magic Valley who was part of Shandra’s transfusion team.

Shandra Sterner and sons surrounded by St. Luke’s team members Garth Blackburn, Stacey Greaves (holding baby Kyler) and Andrea Blackburn at a recent blood drive in Twin Falls.

Sterner had only been out of the hospital a few weeks when she started working to organize a blood drive with the Red Cross of Idaho. While she won’t be eligible to personally give blood until she is further along in her recovery, she was inspired to find a way to get involved as soon as possible.

“It truly has helped keep my spirits so high,” Sterner said. “I have focused really hard on finding a silver lining for everything that has happened.”

On Oct. 19, Sterner — and her family — showed up at ready to work. They signed in donors, passed out nametags and provided refreshments. Her older children not only helped, but it also helped them better understand part of what their mother had been through.

“They were able to watch the process with family members and see how I received a ‘stranger’s’ blood,” said Sterner.

Many of the donors were St. Luke’s staff, some of whom had cared for Sterner in the hospital. The blood drive also gave them a chance to check in with Sterner on her recovery and see how much baby Kyler had grown.

“The turnout was amazing,” said Sterner. “We were able to achieve 60 units.”

“Blood donations are so vital to the work we do every day,” Homolka said. “The blood products that we receive from the amazing people that donate go on to save the lives of so many of our patients, which can range from people involved in accidents to surgical and cancer patients. We rely on people donating blood in order to give these patients the best care possible.” 

About The Author

Kelly Franson is the public relations manager at St. Luke's Magic Valley.