Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Emergency Department nurse Emma Jerrain said there’s one day through the COVID-19 pandemic she remembers distinctly: Dec. 27, 2020.
“We were holding 35 in-patients, 25 of those were COVID-positive,” Jerrain said. “We had ambulances out the door, we had a 10-and-a-half-hour wait in the waiting room, and there was nothing you could really do… If someone was really sick, you took the sickest person and you tried to do the best.”
Exactly one year later, life looked much different for Jerrain and her husband Joe, who would be home, celebrating the holidays with two new bundles of joy.
“Even with all the craziness of it, they are 100% like worth it… We feel really blessed,” Jerrain said as she looked at 2-month-old Carter and Chloe as they slept swaddled in the Jerrains’ living room.
As if being a nurse on the frontlines of the pandemic wasn’t enough, Jerrain did so last year while pregnant with twins.
After trying to start a family for some time, the Jerrains decided, pandemic or not, they weren’t going to lose their chance to have kids.
“I know other people have a much longer road, but because we met later in life and I was a bit older, the clock was ticking, so we had to get on it sooner than later,” Jerrain said.
For the last 18 years while at Henry Mayo, Jerrain has worked her way up from a nurse’s assistant to a clinical coordinator after she realized nursing could fulfill her passion for helping others.
“I really just enjoy nursing, taking care of people, especially in an emergency situation and being a little bit of light in a dark situation,” Jerrain said of working in the Emergency Department.
Through the years, Jerrain has seen Henry Mayo grow to where it can provide the services needed in the Santa Clarita Valley, which Jerrain considers her hometown.
“Working in my hometown, being able to give back, has been a great place to be,” she said.
For Jerrain, it wasn’t just the job, but the fantastic work family she created at that job, that has kept her there for so long. And it’s that Henry Mayo family’s support that helped the Jerrains make the decision to continue with in vitro fertilization through COVID-19.
“Because I’ve been there for so long, everybody obviously knows how long we’ve been trying and everything we’ve been through to get here… and were incredibly supportive,” Jerrain added. “They wanted it to happen as much as we did.”
The pandemic brought with it a surge in COVID-19 cases, which was felt by the health care workers at Henry Mayo through a surge in patients, as well as deaths.
“There has been a lot of challenges, but we have worked through them and tried to find the best way to provide the best care to the most people in Santa Clarita because COVID’s scary,” Jerrain said.
Combine the stress of the pandemic with the stress of IVF, which Jerrain described as an intense process — filled with countless fertility appointments, procedures and daily shots — and Jerrain was in for an extreme pregnancy.
“They say you’ve got to relax, and there’s really nothing you can do about it because you’re in constant worry and wondering what’s happening,” she said. “You’re giving your shots up to four times a day, and sometimes I’d be at work and having my friends give the shots.”
While difficult, Jerrain still looked toward the positive, such as her coworkers’ assistance, switching shifts with her or forcing her to get off her feet for a bit, and the hospital’s resources.
“We were very fortunate more than a lot of other facilities (because) being a disaster resource center, we had all the protective equipment that we needed… so I was able to protect myself,” Jerrain added, noting that talking to patients while pregnant sometimes made them take a step back and realize those working in this environment were human.
Meanwhile, Joe, who is in the U.S. Air Force, was deployed for the first couple of months of the pregnancy.
“I remember I got a video from her during that first ultrasound, and it was the first heartbeat, and it was like, ‘Oh wow, it’s really real,’” he said. “It was pretty neat to see that from all the way over there and see the progression as time went on.”
However, Joe said he felt he had returned in time to experience the pregnancy — and the cravings.
“She wasn’t really showing yet when I got back, so I still felt like I was there for all that, watching her body grow,” he added.
Jerrain ended up working through to 32 weeks, almost right up until she herself ended up in the hospital on and off for the next two and a half weeks to prevent preeclampsia.
“I was very at risk for high blood pressure and pregnancy-induced hypertension, so I was starting to have issues with it while I was at work, but my coworkers probably took better care of me than I took care of myself, saying, ‘You should probably take your blood pressure,’ and allowing me to just go and sit for a few minutes,” Jerrain added.
On Nov. 16 at 11:35 and 11:36 a.m., the twins were delivered via emergency C-section at 34 weeks, and both babies were admitted to Henry Mayo’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where they spent the first three weeks getting stabilized.
“As much as you can be considered an experienced ER nurse, I don’t think anything prepares you for having your babies in that environment,” Jerrain said. “It’s quite amazing because when they’re first there, you’re afraid to touch them, but they are quite strong and quite resilient.”
The Jerrains continued to receive support from Henry Mayo coworkers, friends and family, all of whom they are extremely thankful for.
Jerrain added, “We really are just blessed to have such incredible support to be here and so many people that are so happy for us because they know how much we went through to get here.”