Welcoming generations at a Hometown Hospital

When Hilary and Johnny Spillane envisioned their daughter’s first home, they never thought it would be the hospital’s Special Care Nursery. They expected a full-term pregnancy, smooth delivery and a timely return to their cabin on Trout Creek south of Steamboat Springs.

But that scenario changed on August 15, 2010, when Hilary unexpectedly went into labor four and-a-half weeks before her due date.

“My water broke at 1 a.m. We called the doctor, timed my contractions at three or four minutes apart and quickly drove to Yampa Valley Medical Center,” Hilary said. “Fortunately we had pre-registered, but we forgot to go to the emergency entrance, so a security guard let us in the front door.”

Hilary was given a wheelchair ride while Johnny did his best to keep up with the rapid trip down the hall to the Family Birth Place.

“Johnny was barely off his crutches from his knee surgery three weeks earlier, so he was hobbling along behind me as fast as he could. We joked that he was the one who really needed the wheelchair.”

As global ski fans know, Johnny is a Steamboat Springs native, World Champion and three-time Olympic silver medalist in the demanding sport of Nordic Combined Skiing. During his career he has counted on SportsMed at Yampa Valley Medical Center for physical therapy and rehabilitation.

“I have been going to SportsMed for almost 12 years,” Johnny said. “They have helped me more than I can begin to describe. I have had seven surgeries and various other injuries, including severely sprained ankles, torn discs, blown-out knees and reconstructed shoulders. SportsMed has such an amazing group of people, and they are all committed to getting you back on your feet.”

Johnny would have missed his daughter’s birth if he hadn’t injured his knee in July. He was scheduled to be in Europe during August, but his surgery and rehabilitation kept him home for the big day. Barely 40 minutes after Hilary and Johnny arrived at YVMC, Hadley Ann Spillane entered the world, delivered by Dr. Leslie Ahlmeyer. She weighed 5 pounds, 9 ounces and was 17 inches long. Johnny describes her birth as “the single most important moment in my life.”

“I got to hold her for a few minutes, then Johnny went with her to the Special Care Nursery, where she needed a feeding tube,” Hilary said. Thus began a long nine days for the young family. Fortunately, support was on the way. Johnny’s parents, Jim and Nancy Spillane, awoke to a 4 a.m. beep on their cell phone and the joyous text message: “Hadley’s here!” They cut short their Oregon visit with friends and made a beeline home to Steamboat.

“We will never forget seeing our son and his wife and their little baby for the first time,” Nancy said. “All three of our children, Johnny, Katie and Sam, were born in Steamboat at Routt Memorial Hospital. It was an incredible feeling knowing that JoAnne Lewis, the nurse who helped me with my babies, was there at YVMC helping my granddaughter.”

Familiarity with the Family Birth Place team was reassuring for both Nancy and Hilary. Char Rusk taught childbirth classes and was the labor-and-delivery nurse. Hilary had met other YVMC employees as the photographer for YVMC’s advertising series “Extraordinary People, Personalized Care.”

“I remember photographing the three neonatal nurse practitioners when I was pregnant. While in labor I was told that one of them, Tracy Heaberlin, would come for the birth, and I was comforted in knowing who she was.”
Johnny and Hilary were given a room near the Special Care Nursery. Nancy and Jim were welcome to spend as much time as they wanted with their granddaughter.

“The nurses – especially George Detwiler and Faith Detwiler – were absolutely wonderful,” Nancy said. “They answered all of our questions, explained the monitors and told us what the next benchmark would be.

“I just can’t imagine another hospital doing that. They explained a baby needs to be held, and we appreciated every minute. Sitting in a rocking chair holding Hadley with music playing, it didn’t feel like a hospital – we were in a family zone.”
“The Family Birth Place did a very good job easing our stress and making it a happy place and first home for Hadley’s first nine days,” Hilary agreed. “Everyone was very helpful, informative and compassionate to our every need. Johnny and I felt they were like personal trainers.”

The Spillanes count themselves very lucky to have a healthy, thriving little girl despite her early arrival and need for special care.

“We are so grateful to the staff in the Family Birth Place and feel blessed to have such a great hospital in our hometown Steamboat Springs.”


Family Birth Place nurses Katie Ward and JoAnne Lewis enjoy a reunion with Hadley, Johnny and Hilary Spillane