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Special Care Nursery Reunion: A New Meaning of Family

Guest post by Mary-Peyton Amburn. Mary-Peyton lives in Raleigh with her husband Daniel, 3.5-year-old son Whitaker, and newborn daughter Caroline.

Every expecting mother has an idealistic plan of how her baby is going to be born. Whether it’s a rigid birth plan or just a wait-and-see plan, I can promise you that they all include a healthy baby, chest snuggles, and the picture perfect moment of when you head home.

Caroline Amburn was born 8 weeks early in August 2014

Caroline Amburn was born 8 weeks early in August 2014

At 28 weeks and 4 days pregnant with my daughter (and second child), I was hospitalized at Rex due to complications caused from Placenta Previa.  I went home 6 days later on bed rest only to return a week and a half later.  It was a devastating realization that my daughter would not come into this world on her own time.

Even still, I just knew that my body was going to hold out for her until it was safe for her to arrive.  I had high hopes. Our daughter, Caroline, was born via emergency c-section 5 days later weighing 4 pounds 9 ounces. She was 31 weeks and 5 days old. One moment I was surfing through the TV channels in my hospital bed and not even a full 45 minutes later I had a baby.

*   *   *

I can honestly say that the first 48 hours of Caroline’s life was the most traumatic experience I have ever been through.  I was still in shock from the trauma of her birth, overwhelmed by the constant beeps and medical equipment of the NICU, and at a complete loss of how to connect with my newborn.  I had no idea what all the numbers meant on the monitors and my husband was more in tune with our baby than I was.


Caroline hooked up to the ventilator, belly lines, and more.

To add salt in the wounds, Caroline was rapidly declining from her initial “honeymoon” phase into preemie behavior. A nurse later told me, “Caroline ordered everything on the menu.”  She began with a pneumothorax, or what we would think of as a collapsed lung, that required a chest tube in order to relieve the air that was building in her chest cavity.  They inserted belly lines through her umbilical cord to act as an intravenous line for nutrients and blood draws. She was also on a CPAP for oxygen.

The full realization of what was happening to our sweet baby came after her chest tube and belly line procedures. I was wheeled into the NICU to see her after two excruciatingly long hours of waiting. I remember asking if I could touch her and feeling the sadness that came with that question. It is something a parent would never dream that they would ever have to ask. As I reached into her little incubator, Caroline crashed.

There really are no words to describe that moment. I have played it over a thousand times in my head and it will forever be burned into my mind. Watching your lifeless baby being shaken in attempt to stimulate her and then ventilated immediately isn’t something you forget. They quickly wheeled me away while the amazing NICU team that surrounded her worked. Looking back now I realize that the staff is fully trained for these medical moments, but at the time I didn’t know if Caroline would be okay. So as I sat in the NICU lobby crying inconsolably, the other NICU nurses embraced me. I may have this awful memory, but it is in conjunction with a memory of tenderness from complete strangers.

Mom and Caroline during a feeding session

Mom and Caroline during a feeding session


Dad and Caroline during Kangaroo Care

It turned out that being on the ventilator was the best thing for Caroline. It gave her time to rest while the machine breathed for her.  She showed tremendous improvement and within 48 hours of being ventilated she was down to just a nasal cannula.  Caroline was also treated with Indocin for a PDA in her heart and for jaundice. After her first week and a half, we were looking at an entirely different baby. She was off oxygen completely and she became a Feeder/Grower. She had to learn how to eat!  We slowly fell into a new routine of juggling hospital time with our son at home. It was both emotionally and physically exhausting.

*   *   *

Mary-Peyton discussing Caroline's care with one of her wonderful nurses

Mary-Peyton discussing Caroline’s care with one of her wonderful nurses

Caroline spent 26 days in the NICU.  Though it was an amazingly difficult time for our family, I actually miss our time there.  Rex and the Special Care Nursery staff became an extension of our home.  They cared for my baby girl for almost the whole first month of her life. They bathed, fed, changed, snuggled, and burped her. They monitored and watched over her as if she was their own. When my world was upside down, I was soothed by their kindness, their instruction, their care. It is a sickening feeling to leave your baby behind, to imagine them alone in a hospital, but my husband and I found comfort in the gentleness and aptitude of her caretakers. When asked about Caroline’s care there is one statement that we do not waiver from: “It takes a special person to take care of NICU babies.”

I may not have gotten my perfect birth plan but I walked away with so much more. We left 26 days later with a healthy baby, lots of kangaroo care chest snuggles, and a picture perfect moment of going home. A moment filled with more knowledge, love, and humility than I could have ever imagined.

This weekend is the Rex Healthcare Special Care Nursery Family Reunion. Family being the keyword in the event title. Though meant as “bring your whole family,” I see it differently. When we needed them most for love and support, the Special Care Nursery became our family.  We wouldn’t miss the reunion for anything.

Mom, Dad, and Caroline on the day she was discharged from Rex

Mom, Dad, and Caroline on the day Caroline was discharged from Rex

Big brother Whitaker meets Caroline 26 days after her birth

Big brother Whitaker meets Caroline 26 days after her birth


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Three-Bean Salad

This tangy bean salad is perfect for a picnic, and inexpensive to make. It only costs about $0.79 per serving to make this recipe!


  • 1 can lima beans (8.5 ounce)
  • 1 can cut green beans (8 ounce)
  • 1 can red kidney beans (8 ounce)
  • 1 onion (medium, thinly sliced and separated into two rings)
  • ½ cup bell pepper (chopped sweet green)
  • 8 ounces Italian salad dressing (fat-free)


1. Drain the canned beans.
2. Peel and slice the onion and separate into rings.
3. Chop the green bell pepper.
4. In a large bowl, combine the lima beans, green beans, kidney beans, onion rings and green bell pepper.
5. Pour the Italian dressing over the vegetables and toss lightly.
6. Cover the bowl and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour. The salad can be left in the refrigerator overnight.
7. Drain before serving.

Number of servings: 4 Nutrition facts per serving: 170 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 690 mg sodium, 35 g total carbohydrate, 8 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 7 g protein, 4 percent vitamin A, 30 percent vitamin C, 2 percent calcium, 6 percent iron.

Recipe courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recipefinder.nal.usda.go.

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What Happens in the Dark, Comes to the Light: CEO Sleep Out

092014_Sylvia1Post by Sylvia Hackett, Vice President of Human Resources and the Rex Healthcare Foundation at Rex Healthcare. She serves on the Executive Committee of the Greater Triangle United Way Board and volunteers with the Wake Boys and Girls Club. She is also a board member of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

We’ve all heard the saying, “What happens in the dark, comes to the light.” A recent experience has given new meaning to this statement for me. I participated in what the United Way of the Greater Triangle refers to as an “uncommon event,” where 25 executives from across the Triangle experience, for only one night, what more than 2,000 people in our community experience nightly: homelessness and hunger. The annual CEO Sleep Out is designed to raise awareness by making the invisible issues visible.


Sylvia in her spot for the evening

It was the evening of September 11, 2014, when we gathered on the lawn in front of the DPAC in downtown Durham. Several of the executives had participated before given this was the third year of the event. They seemed prepared and not worried about the evening ahead. The weather forecast called for rain most of the night and heavy at times. I wasn’t concerned about anything specific (except spiders) and I had already resolved that I would make it through the evening.

The United Way staff organized a very engaging evening of presentations and roundtable discussions with local non-profits on the social impacts of childhood hunger and poverty. These conversations revealed statistics that further highlighted the issues and the need for long-term solutions. The agenda also included presentations from finalists in the United Way Social Innovation Challenge.

The time went by quickly, and the program portion of the evening was over. Also, I should mention that no food was served. If we didn’t eat before we arrived at 6:30 pm, we had to wait until morning. It was just about midnight when we got in line to collect our provisions for the evening.


The maximum amount of allowed essentials: box, blanket, pillow, and sleeping bag

To participate in the Sleep Out, each executive had to raise money to support the cause. For starters, each of us received a flat piece of cardboard for the ground. If we raised $250, we received a pillow; $500 qualified us for a blanket, $750 earned us a box for shelter, and $1,000 allowed us to receive a sleeping bag. With the support of many people at Rex, as well as family and friends, I raised $1,260 which earned me all of these essentials. As we settled in for the night, I set up my box on the paved parking lot instead of the grass. I thought I could best avoid spiders out there…. and I did! Also, the rain never came—we were very lucky.

Once everyone had quieted and settled in, the night became very real for me. Even though I lay there feeling quite vulnerable, I expected the city would quiet down, and people would go where people go when it gets dark. Instead, I learned that while we only simulated homelessness, those who were truly homeless were nearby. There was an unexpected stream of foot traffic in the area, and countless other ramblings reverberated throughout the night. I decided to close the opening to the box to alleviate some slight anxiety and attempt to get some sleep. My thought was I can’t worry about what I can’t see. Eventually, I think I may have slept sporadically for 1-2 hours.

Executives on the DPAC lawn

Executives experiencing homelessness on the DPAC lawn

When daylight came, the city buses were rolling again and the people around us returned to appearing deliberate in their comings and goings. At first, I had an overwhelming feeling of relief–I had survived the night! And then I had a revelation: I had closed my box to block out what I didn’t want to see. I go about my life busy doing what I do, and that makes it easy to tune things out. This experience was a gift—a unique opportunity to help shine a spotlight on the issues of homelessness, poverty and hunger. The hope is that we as a community can find real solutions to this problem.


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Good-for-You Cornbread

Try this healthier version of a classic comfort food and serve it up with chili or stew.


  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup low-fat (1 percent) buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup soft tub margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil (to grease baking pan)


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Mix together cornmeal, flour, sugar and baking powder.
  3. In another bowl, combine buttermilk and egg. Beat lightly.
  4. Slowly add buttermilk and egg mixture to dry ingredients.
  5. Add margarine and mix by hand or with mixer for 1 minute.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes in an 8×8-inch, greased baking dish. Cool. Cut into 10 squares.

Serves 10.
Nutrition facts (per serving): 178 calories, 6 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 22 mg cholesterol, 94 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 4 g protein, 27 g carbohydrates, 132 mg potassium.

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Back to School Safety Tips

As a new school year begins, it’s important for parents and children to take steps to help ensure safe and enjoyable school days. Here are some age-appropriate safety tips you can share with your children as they head off to school.

Tips for grade-schoolers

082514_school1Know the walking route. It’s important that young children understand how to get to and from school safely. If your child walks to school, pair him or her with a walking buddy. Ask that your child stick to the same pre-determined route every day, so that in case of an emergency, you’ll know his or her whereabouts. Have your child practice looking both ways before crossing the street and remind him or her to not talk to strangers.

Understand the bus rules. If your child rides the bus to school, teach him or her about proper bus etiquette. Wake County has reduced the number of bus stops this year, so make sure to check your bus route to see if it has changed.

Play it safe. Playground injuries are the leading cause of injury to school children ages 5 to 14 and to children in childcare.* Inspect your local playground, making sure adequate precautions are taken to prevent and/or minimize falls. If an injury does occur, make sure to check the Rex Express Care wait times on your way to urgent care.

Tips for teens

082514_school2Prevent sports injuries. Sports injuries are common among active teens – but they don’t have to be. Encourage your teen to use the right equipment (shoes, protective gear, etc.) for his or her sport, to warm up before playing and to rest when tired. Also, remind your teen to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Lighten the load. Heavy backpacks place undo stress upon a teen’s back and shoulders, which can lead to pain, stiffness and poor posture. Help your teen lighten up by buying him or her a quality backpack with padding and wide shoulder straps. The backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10% to 15% of your child’s body weight. If it does, remove unnecessary items. Your teen should also carry the backpack over both shoulders to evenly distribute the weight.

Tips for college students

082514_school3Be aware of your surroundings. College students, especially new freshmen, sometimes feel that they’re immune to crime simply because they are on a college campus. Unfortunately, crime can happen anywhere. Students should take the necessary precautions, such as traveling with a group and avoiding compromising situations to ensure their personal safety. Most colleges and universities provide security personnel who will escort students to evening classes or to other campus facilities at night.

Protect your possessions. Students should keep their belongings safe by locking dorm rooms and windows and never leaving backpacks, purses, laptops, cell phones, etc. unattended.

* Source: Safe Kids Worldwide,

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Kristie’s Rex Sprint Triathlon Experience

Post by Kristie, Rex Wellness Center of Garner Member


Kristie on Race Day morning

My triathlon journey began two years ago when I attended my friend’s triathlon. I just went to support her, but when I left her event, I caught the “bug.” At the time, I was pregnant with my twin boys and I remember thinking, “just let me get these boys out and settled – I’m doing that!” After they were a year old, I thought I would start to prepare myself for the triathlon, but I knew I needed a pool and the gym fees discouraged me. So I just signed up for a half marathon instead. While this was fun and definitely a bucket list item, my heart still wanted to do a tri.

I ultimately joined Rex Wellness Center and began the road to the triathlon. I had NO idea what I was doing. I was already a runner so I felt the most comfortable with this portion. My bike purchase was only a few months earlier and had only logged greenway miles because of my fear of the road. I knew how to swim from childhood lessons, but somehow felt that meant nothing competitively. So I decided to spend the most of my time in the pool and on the bike.


Kristie and her fellow Rex Tri trainees

Right around the time I began my membership, I started receiving the weekly newsletters from the wellness center. In one particular newsletter, I read that you could submit your name to potentially win triathlon training from a well-known triathlete!   My initial thought was I NEVER win anything, but I signed up anyway because I knew if I didn’t sign up I CERTAINLY wouldn’t win. Let me just say, when I got the email that I was one of the ones chosen, I just about exploded with excitement because now I KNEW that my goal could be achieved now. The best part was knowing who would be training me- the infamous Rodney Jenkins!

We met initially and he asked me if I had support at home because training for a tri would take commitment. With 3 kids at home and working full time at night, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I discussed this with my husband Jason and my parents, and they supported me fully. Rodney ran through all the things I needed, and I went out and got everything required for the tri.

I looked the part, now I had to train for the part. I soon met Theresa, last year’s Rodney-triathlon-protege and Angie, Rodney’s wife, and these two would help me a lot along my journey with their encouragement. We were all able to get some road miles in on the bike and I continued the swim journey on my own. I was introduced to Shannon Thomsen and he helped me tremendously on shifting gears and hill work. I was able to learn from him how to use the terrain to my advantage with the hills. His patience and confidence in me boosted my confidence level and I thank him for that.


Swim portion of the Mock tri

The mock triathlon occurred one week before the Garner Triathlon and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. We all went out and I got to experience how it might be on race day, and it taught me several things. First, I now knew it was possible because I completed it! Secondly, it taught me what it feels like to be in the pool with others that have varying skill levels. I got to feel what it was like to pass someone and have someone pass me. Lastly, I learned what a great supportive family there was in our own Rex family of triathletes. Everyone had wonderful things to say. While I felt slower than them, they all said I did a great job. No one ever made me feel like I was wasting their time. It was a great feeling.

On race day, the adrenaline was definitely pumping! I arrived at 5:45 and Shannon and Theresa helped me set up. Body marking was next. Afterwards, it became a waiting game. As I got in the water, it really sank in, and all I could say was here goes nothing!


Kristie crosses the finish line faster than her goal time!

At this point I had to trust my training. I estimated that I could swim in 7 minutes and I did just that. The bike transition happened faster than I had anticipated, and because I had ridden the course a few times, I knew what to expect. The run transition was fast and the brick training helped me get on the road without feeling too tired. I actually ran my 2 miles faster than I had anticipated. I finished the whole thing in 1 hour and 12 minutes. I was shooting for 1 hour 15 minutes so I was very excited.

To anyone who wants to do this, you can do it! It is possible. After all, I am a mom of three young kids and a full time nurse who works nights. It is possible. You just have to believe in yourself and run your own race! I am signed up for the second and third part of the Rex Triathlon Series and hope to do an Olympic Distance Triathlon next year. It is my ultimate goal to do a 70.3 Half Ironman. Then maybe, just maybe take it even further. We will see! Thank you Rex Wellness Family for the opportunity and the support!

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Prevent Foodborne Illness

072514_foodborne4Picnics, grilling, camping — summer was made for dining outdoors. But outdoor cooking experiences can also present unique challenges for food safety. Don’t let foodborne illness ruin your summer fun. Follow these safety tips to ensure your summer cookouts go off without a hitch.

Wash your hands and all cooking surfaces and utensils. If you are going to be camping somewhere without safe water, bring your own water and soap. Do not assume fresh water from lakes or streams is safe just because it looks clear — always disinfect water first by bringing to a rolling boil for one minute (longer if camping at high altitudes). You can also use disposable wipes for washing hands and quick cleanup.

072514_foodborne2Keep perishable food cold. Pack meats and other frozen products directly into a cooler without thawing first to keep them cold longer for picnics and camping trips. Try to pack food that will be cooked later toward the bottom of the cooler. Use a separate cooler for beverages that will be opened more often. Pack coolers as full as possible to help keep items cold, and fill extra space with large blocks of ice or frozen gel packs. Keep coolers out of the sun and covered with a blanket or tarp if possible.

Marinate the right way. To ensure your food is safe, marinate only in a refrigerated environment. Poultry and cubed meat can be marinated for up to two days. Beef, pork, steaks and lamb can be marinated for up to five days. If you plan on using the marinade in cooked food, keep a portion separate from the raw meat to use later. If you do serve marinade you’ve used to marinate the raw meat, it should be boiled first to destroy bacteria.

If you do suspect food poisoning, don’t hesitate to to go to your nearest Rex Express Care for treatment.


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Make a Splash with Water-Based Exercise

072514_swimming1If you find that activities like running or biking put too much strain on your body, or if you’re ready for a change in routine, water-based exercise may be the answer you’re looking for. From water aerobics to hydrotherapy, aquatic activities have many positive health benefits for individuals of all ages and abilities.

As a low-impact physical activity, water-based exercise allows you to reap the aerobic benefits of high-impact physical exercise without the wear and tear on your body that traditional aerobic exercises may cause. Water-based physical therapy (hydrotherapy) can help individuals with chronic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, improve the use of affected joints without aggravating symptoms.

072514_swimming3Individuals dealing with chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia, may find that exercising in water relieves their anxiety about being active and may even relieve pain by increasing blood flow to the muscles. If you don’t suffer from chronic disease, but still cope with joint or muscle pain, you may also see health improvements when changing from a land-based to a water-based exercise program.

Water aerobics and other water activities can also be beneficial to your mental health. Swimming can improve your mood by reducing stress and aiding relaxation. Exercising in warm water may also help relieve symptoms of depression in people with fibromyalgia.

Make it a family affair

072514_swimming2Besides being beneficial to your physical and mental health, recreational water activities are fun for the entire family and can help you forge stronger family connections. From going to the beach to playing on the water slide at your community pool, there are a variety of ways to enjoy the water with your family. Just be sure to follow safety rules and keep a sharp eye on small children and non-swimmers.

Take the plunge

Whether you’re looking for a low-impact exercise, an easy way to relax or a fun activity that can be enjoyed by the entire family, jumping in the water may be just what you need.

Float the idea by your doctor

Talk to your doctor to determine if aquatic exercises or hydrotherapy may benefit you. All five of our Wellness Centers have indoor swimming pools available for members, and all wellness centers offer a variety of aqua group exercises classes. Check them out today!

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The Benefits of My UNC Chart

072514_amyaustellbioPost by Amy Austell, UNC Health Care patient and co-worker.

I have a drawer in my office that is full of medical records.  After visit summaries, test results…some from my doctor at UNC, others from specialists at Rex and still more from my PCP in Chapel Hill.  But you know what?  It’s a mess. And when I am at an appointment and my specialist at Rex asks about a test result or procedure that my PCP had ordered, that drawer in my office is no help at all.

Three months ago, I signed up for My UNC Chart and, boom, all the information swimming around in my drawer at home was now organized in one place.  If you aren’t familiar with My UNC Chart, it’s a secure online health care patient portal that is connected to UNC Health Care’s Epic@UNC medical record system.

072514_unc2If you are a patient a Rex, UNC Medical Center or UNC Physician’s group, you can quickly and easily sign up for My UNC Chart.  Then the Epic@UNC system populates your account with all the UNC Health Care medical records electronically on file for you: medical history, prescriptions and test results.  It also tracks current and past appointments, and allows you to message your doctor.  There’s even an app for your smartphone or iPad.

The first week I had my account, I received an email that said I had a message waiting for me in My UNC Chart.  I opened the My UNC Chart app on my iPad and saw a message from my doctor’s office asking me to fill out paperwork for my visit the following week.  I clicked on the link provided, and within 10 minutes answered all the medical history and pre-visit questions.

At work, I can receive a discount on my health care premium if I complete certain health behaviors and challenges.  One option is to have your doctor check your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc., but in order to get the credit, the information has to be submitted in a format that proves it came from your doctor’s office.  Not a problem with My UNC Chart.  I just went to the site, opened up my test results and printed them.  The printout was formatted with the practice information and all the data I needed.

I recently had a question about a prescription.  Through My UNC Chart, I sent a message to my doctor asking my question, and I had my answer within two hours.  It saved me multiple phone calls and possibly a visit.  Just yesterday, I paid a doctor’s bill through the My UNC Chart app.  A couple of clicks and it was paid.

Simple, easy and organized.  That’s what I love about My UNC Chart.  Last month, I changed my medical home to a UNC Health Care practice because having all my records in My UNC Chart is that important to me.  What used to be hundreds of meaningless papers in a drawer is now an organized story of my health.

This weekend, I am cleaning out my medical record drawer.  I won’t miss it at all.



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