March 19, 2011
Soldiers at Fort Carson stay busy even when they’re away from the rigors of combat.
This time, though, they’re battling diapers, bottles and pacifiers.
The hospital on the Army post this month has been delivering more than 10 babies a day in a boom that comes about nine months after the 3,500-soldier 4th Brigade Combat Team returned home after a year in Afghanistan.
“Business is booming around here,” said Debra Craven, a nurse who works with the newborns at Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital.
The influx of new life is expected to continue through July, when things are expected to slow at the maternity ward to the usual 150 to 180 births per month.
The maternity ward at Fort Carson handles births for all military families in the region, including Canadians assigned to the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs.
To handle the workload, the hospital has 25 doctors and midwives available around the clock. Women in labor have a nurse with them at all times.
There’s no mystery to why the materinity ward is so busy.
“It’s just like you would think,” said the maternity ward’s chief nurse, Dola Handley.
When soldiers come home to Colorado Springs after a year away from marital bliss, the babies start showing up in bunches about nine months later, she said.
From March 1 through March 17, Fort Carson welcomed 182 babies into the world — more than 10 kids a day.
At 2 p.m. Thursday, it was rush hour in the recently enlarged and renovated maternity ward, with half a dozen mothers in labor and another half dozen cuddling newborns in rooms on the floor.
“It’s incredible,” Melinda Haggerton said as she cradled her 7-pound 2-ounce daughter Evelynn Joy.
The proud father, Pfc. Nathan Haggerton of the post’s 71st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group, said the experience at the maternity ward was a nice change from his usual drab Army surroundings.
Decorators picked out warm colors and nice furniture for the rooms, which come complete with flat-screen televisions. Most of the maternity ward workers are civilians.
“It wasn’t what I pictured,” he said.
While the soldiers at Fort Carson have been mass-producing babies, Handley said the maternity ward is not designed to be a production line. Patients stay 36 to 48 hours — longer than new mothers stay in most civilian hospitals.
During that time nurses work to ensure mothers understand everything from diapering to feeding.
“We have a 90-percent plus breast-feeding rate,” Handley said.
The avalanche of little bundles of joy hasn’t been getting the hospital workers down.
Staff Sgt. Brian Prine, the top sergeant overseeing the ward, spent a year at a hospital in Iraq before coming to Fort Carson’s maternity ward. He said he’ll take labor and delivery over roadside bomb injuries any day.
“This is nice,” he said.
Prine and the other workers who have been pulling 12-hour shifts in the maternity ward are eyeing the calendar for the post’s next baby boom.
The 3,800-soldier 3rd Brigade Combat Team came home this month after a year in Iraq. That would mean babies should start arriving in December and January.
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