Chelsea Johnson was 27 weeks pregnant when her amniotic sac ruptured prematurely. She could never have expected how that day – Nov. 5, 2023 – would forever change her life.

Admitted to Atrium Health Floyd Medical Center’s Mother-Baby Unit, she spent the next 43 days there while her daughter, Addi Jo, grew inside her.

Johnson had good days and bad days, all of them made more tolerable by the relationships she developed with her caregivers. Being in the hospital is never anyone’s first choice. Her older daughter, Scarlett, was not even a year old and couldn’t be there with her mama. Johnson couldn’t prepare for Thanksgiving, decorate for Christmas or take Scarlett to see Santa. It was an emotional and physical hurdle she hadn’t planned for, but the nurses and staff responsible for her care went out of their way to make those days better.

In Johnson’s words, they made the holidays easier and the nights and days shorter.

When Scarlett turned one, the Mother-Baby staff planned a Minnie Mouse-themed hospital-based birthday party for her, complete with cake and gifts.

When it was time for pictures with Santa, the team brought St. Nick himself to Floyd Medical Center’s third floor so Johnson could be there for that holiday milestone. All the while, the Mother-Baby staffers monitored mother and little Addi. They watched her movements, amplified her heart beats and offered hugs and reassurance to Chelsea.

Nine days before Christmas, Johnson went into labor and Addi was born She was very sick, and, unfortunately died three days later. What should have been a joyous Christmas was now darkened by grief.

It would have been easy and understandable for Johnson to retreat into a shell, and while her grief was tangible, so was her will to carry on. Her husband and daughter needed her, and she had a story to tell. Rather than wallow in self-pity or demand answers to her unanswerable questions, she turned her energy to caring for others.

Johnson reached out to Kellie Pearson, director of Women’s Services at Floyd Medical Center. Johnson perhaps better than anyone, understood what expectant moms feel when they are alone in a hospital bed. She knows the pain of having to leave other children at home. 

She has experienced what it’s like to spend major holidays in the hospital, missing the Instagram-able moments she thought she’d capture. She had the ability to empathize, especially with those patients who, like her, have pregnancies that don’t go as planned.

Johnson said she wouldn’t have made it those seven weeks in the hospital without the nurses and other caregivers who became her friends, and she wouldn’t be working in a job she loves had it not been for the Mother-Baby team that goes above and beyond for all their patients.

The staff provided books, paintings and puzzles to help her pass the time. They even brought items from home so Johnson could do her nails. Some braided her hair while others brought her lunch or coffee, and when Addi died, some of the nurses came to the hospital to be with her in her time of greatest need.

“They came in and picked up the pieces,” Johnson said.

“It wasn’t always easy, and I had days I didn’t even want the lights to be turned on in the room, but they came in and added light,” she said. “They made my stay livable. I was always, always taken care of by them. They were my second family and home.”  

Johnson applied for, and was hired, as a certified nursing assistant on the Mother Baby Unit at Floyd Medical Center, so she could, in her words, “provide the love and care this sweet unit had given to me.” She loves her job, where she says she delivers all the care she can to all the moms who deserve the best.

It is the best kind of therapy, she said.

“I have taken my rough times and turned them into building stones.”