Newton Medical Center employee Brooke Williams would have been stuck in her car, with the hood mangled like a metallic tumbleweed, the side collapsed in like a crushed can, and the vehicle’s make and model unrecognizable, if it weren’t for the concern and actions of her fellow nurses.
The women of NMC’s BirthCare Center watch over the babies in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit with compassion, concern and care. On the evening of Jan. 19, they showed the same type of involvement with each other.
When Williams, described as a reliable woman who takes great care in all aspects of her life, was becoming increasingly more tardy for work, alarms rose among the BirthCare Center’s staff.
Fellow nurse Ines Rasper was set to arrive for the same shift as Williams, beginning at 7 p.m., and the two had arranged to bring dinner in for the others. At 7:15, Rasper and the other nurses started wondering where Williams was.
The nurses called Williams, and when they didn’t get an answer, they called Sue Smith, a fellow nurse who wasn’t in that day. Smith knew where Williams’ father lived and made the drive over.
Smith reached Williams’ father’s house about the same time the women decided to take more action. NICU Clinical Coordinator Robin Sloman, who was also off-duty that night, left her home in Henry County, shortly after getting ready for sleep at 9:15 p.m., and retraced what she knew was Williams’ route to work.
Williams, who lives in McDonough, typically comes down Kelleytown Road, gets onto State Road 20 and comes into Newton County that way.
"I knew exactly where she drove," Sloman said. "I started there. It was not like her not to call in."
As Sloman was seeking signs of her friend, she found one that she hoped she wouldn’t. On a dark stretch of 20, Sloman saw that the grass near an embankment was trampled. She pulled her car closer and discovered a crashed vehicle.
"When I first found the scene, I saw the car down in the embankment with no lights on, looking like it had been there for awhile," Sloman said. "As I was calling the hospital back to verify what kind of car she had, I saw a hand come up, and I knew she was alive. I threw the phone down and ran to her.
"She was talking and going in and out of consciousness."
At that time another couple pulled over and dialed 911. Also about this time, Smith reached her father’s house and found out he didn’t know where Williams was, either. Ines Rasper, who had been working the phones trying to find her friend, ran out of numbers.
After the emergency authorities arrived, they began to work to extricate Williams from her vehicle. The impact was so strong that she was moved from the driver’s side to the passenger’s seat, and was trapped, unable to get to her phone to call for help.
"I couldn’t get her out of the car," Sloman said. "She did tell me she thought her legs were broken. They literally had to cut her out of the car.
"It seemed like hours, but it was maybe five or 10 minutes."
Williams was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, where she was treated and released. She had broken both of her ankles, making her return to NMC six months in the making.
Even though Williams was safe shortly after Sloman and her fellow nurses found her, NMC’s NICU
nurses’ weren’t finished.
BirthCare Center nurse Elizabeth Rainey set up a Facebook page to help keep Williams’ friends, co-workers and acquaintances updated, and the nurses took up a collection.
Williams’ friends organized meals for her and set up a yard sale. The physicians group gave a sizable donation, and other NMC employees donated money via payroll deduction. Smith picked up a bedside transfer chair, and Debra Lewis, a Thirty-one gifts representative (selling handbags at in-home parties) donated her commissions – all to aid in Williams’ recovery.
If it weren’t for the nurses of NMC’s BirthCare Center, the technology that supports young lives when a womb cannot wouldn’t be able to help the NICU babies. And Williams might not have been found in a timely manner to help ensure a full recovery, or have had the support that Newton County can count on from its hospital staff’s nurses every day.