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It's All in a Day 
For mom in a coma, medical team was with her for all the high notes and low notes

It’s no wonder that Preston Wenkman is nicknamed Rock Star – he sure knows how
to make an entrance.

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His memorable debut, however, was wildly out of sync with his family’s plans.

Preston’s mom, Ashley Wenkman (shown in image on right) of Wisconsin Dells, contracted the H1N1 flu virus while seven months pregnant with Preston. The flu gave way to a severe case of pneumonia, stealing 90 percent of her lung function. Once she was hospitalized, little Preston began knocking at the door. His timing couldn’t have been worse.

Doctors determined that a chemically induced coma would help stabilize Ashley by reserving all of her energy for breathing, even as she was connected to a ventilator.

Three days and much medical intervention later, Preston was born. And his mom remained in a coma.

“I remember waking up and knowing I was in labor, but I had no muscle function. I couldn’t even open my eyes,” says Ashley, whose husband witnessed the dangers unfold for both mother and baby. “When Preston was born, I heard them say, ‘Here he is.’”

For two more days, Ashley lay comatose while her perfectly healthy son was nurtured in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). When she woke, she wanted nothing more than to
see her baby.

That’s when her caregivers joined her at center stage. “One nurse braided my hair while I
was unconscious so I would look pretty for meeting my baby,” Ashley recounts. Another
made it her priority for mom and baby to unite– which happened only when Ashley was well
enough. By then, Preston was four days old.

“My family tells me the entire staff was amazing, from doctors and nurses to the woman who cleaned my room every day,” Ashley says. “They went above and beyond the call of duty.”

Upon discharge from the hospital, Ashley couldn’t take her newborn, who remained in the NICU for three more weeks. On the way home, she passed several billboards singing the praises of St. Mary’s nurses for their clinical expertise and the extraordinary lengths they go to for their patients.

“I thought of my own nurses every time.”


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