Amanda Welsh and her husband, Shannon, have dreamed for years of having a child.

In 2015, Amanda endured three miscarriages.

Pain stung to the core, but instead of living in grief, Amanda continued to persevere, seeking help from physicians and fertility specialists.

“I was going in for early lab results to make sure my hormone levels were rising,” Amanda said. “That’s when I first downloaded (MyChart) so I could get those lab results fast. I was so eager. I would log in as soon as I got a message that the lab results were ready. I was on needles and pins.”

MyChart, a consumer tool Spectrum Health offers, lets patients take control of their own health care.

Through the MyChart portal, patients can access lab results, doctor notes, confirm appointments, message providers and more on computers and other devices.

In June 2016, the Grandville, Michigan, couple got the news they had been dreaming of—Amanda was pregnant.

Along with the baby in her womb, MyChart became Amanda’s constant companion.

“I had so many appointments, ultrasounds and all these things,” she said. “(MyChart) was just a great tool to follow along. All the notes were in there and all the follow-up appointments.

“Everything was just really organized. Every time I did some test for this or blood work for that, I was in there trying to decipher what was being said.”

MyChart helped relieve stress by keeping everything in one place, at her fingertips.

“It was technically my fourth pregnancy so I was always on edge if it was going to keep,” Amanda said. “All of that information was really powerful and valuable. I could message providers if I had a question in between appointments.”

Amanda’s pregnancy coasted along. She couldn’t wait to meet her little leprechaun, due on St. Patrick’s Day 2017.

Early arrival

During the holiday season, she sensed something was off.

“Right after Christmas, I was kind of having a funny feeling,” Amanda said. “It was a busy week with the holidays and I was off work getting some stuff done. I just kind of had a funny feeling, like the baby wasn’t moving around as much.”

Maternal instinct struck deep.

She called her doctor, who directed her to go to the Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital OB Triage. Shannon met her there.

Monitors showed a terrifying trend—the baby’s heart rate dipping.

“All the nurses rushed in and told me to get on my side,” Amanda said. “They were trying to re-position me. The heart rate started going back up.”

But the event required further monitoring. Amanda had to spend the night. The baby’s heart rate slowed several more times overnight.

“It’s really scary,” she said. “Your mind kind of goes blank. It was just really unexpected. Even though I had a lot of fertility issues and miscarriages, there was nothing in my pregnancy that signaled anything dangerous. All my appointments had been good.”

Amanda underwent several ultrasounds that night.

“I was constantly checking the monitors,” she said. “About 5 a.m., her heart rate dropped again. They were having a hard time finding it. It became too dangerous. The OB on-call physician came in. He would look at the monitor, then look at me. I’ll never forget the expression on his face.”

She’ll also never forget what happened next.

“He said, ‘We’ve got to get the baby out right away,’” Amanda said. “It was kind of like this immediate storm. I had to say goodbye to my husband. They wheeled me across the hall (for an emergency C-section) and did full anesthesia. They delivered her in about 20 minutes.”

Madeline Margaret arrived at 29 weeks on Dec. 30, 2016, weighing just 2.5 pounds.

Staff rushed her to the NICU in The Gerber Foundation Neonatal Center at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Shannon accompanied her.

“After Madeline was born, I was able to actually read the placenta report in (MyChart), which gave some after-the-fact details about my pregnancy,” Amanda said.

“(They were) details that don’t always show up on ultrasounds or other tests,” she said. “I was also able to use the information to talk to my doctor and ask questions about what it meant.”

Little Madeline spent the next four months in the NICU, then went home with help from Spectrum Health Visiting Nurse Association.

Managing the journey

Now 2 years old, Madeline is thriving.

“She’s just a normal, funny kid,” Amanda said. “She loves books, loves nature and loves walks. She started full-time day care last July. She loves ‘going to school,’ as we call it. She made friends. She talks a ton. Her ability to comprehend things always amazes us. She absorbs and understands so many concepts.”

MyChart remains in her family’s life.

“All of her appointments are always in there,” Amanda said. “I never have to call the office because I lost it or forgot to add it to my calendar. All of the visit summaries and follow-up instructions are in there.

“I don’t have to keep a 10-page stack of paper at my home,” she said. “And the part my husband and I use all the time—you can message your doctor. You can send a message or a picture and say, ‘This popped up, does it look serious?’ We always get a really timely response. It’s really convenient. It makes everything really easy.”

Amanda still uses MyChart for her own needs, too. In May, she broke her finger.

In addition to primary care and physical therapy appointments, she had to contend with specialist visits and X-ray results.

“All that information was in there, too,” she said. “Digital technology is great because it’s convenient and time-saving. But it’s also given me information to make better decisions about my own health and the health of my family.”