When the stork comes to call

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman David Dobrydney
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Watching old cartoons as a child I learned a lot of things. One of the most important things I learned is where babies come from.

For years, it was a reality to me that my sisters entered my life in the loving grasp of a stork wearing a little messenger's cap (the stork also seemed to be perpetually drunk in the old cartoons, but that's another story). As I got older I learned that babies aren't delivered via avian postal services. However, the legend of the stork is alive and well at the 48th Medical Group. Here, the stork isn't a bird. It's 26 Airmen and civilians from the 48th Inpatient Squadron who comprise the Maternal Child Unit, which delivers an average of 40 to 50 children a month.

If that number seems a bit high, that is because the 48th Medical Group also operates the evocatively named Storknesting program. A Department of Defense program open to military TRICARE beneficiaries, Storknesting allows women who live in an area without labor and delivery services to come to Lakenheath to have their babies. The Lakenheath clinic supports women from Royal Air Forces Mildenhall, Alconbury, Croughton, Menwith Hill, Molesworth, Upwood, Lajes Field, Azores, and Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

"It was started to facilitate a safer labor and delivery process for the women who live more than an hour away from a medical facility offering Obstetrical/delivery services," said Capt. Katherine Di Scipio, maternal child unit element chief. "Some women feel more comfortable at an American hospital. They appreciate the standard of care."

Women can opt into the program by speaking to their primary health care provider, who coordinates with their (or their husband's) squadron. Then a Storknesting coordinator from Lakenheath will contact them with all the information necessary for an easy transition, including lodging reservations and transportation as needed.

When I visited the Maternal Child Unit, the staff was keen to show their newly renovated rooms in the Obstetrical unit, each with state-of-the-art monitoring capabilities, labor beds and newborn stabilization care area, according to Captain Di Scipio.

"The room the patient is admitted to will be the same room she will deliver in and stay for postpartum until discharged home," she said. "In this way the mother and infant do not have to move anywhere, and mom can focus on caring for the newest addition to the family."

And for the lucky father, each room also has a sleeper chair for them to stay by the mother's side during her stay.

"We feel that this is more family-centered and will create a more positive experience for the family," said Captain Di Scipio.

While the clinic staff is justifiably proud of their facilities, the mothers I spoke with that came to Lakenheath to give birth told me how pleased they are with the service and accomodations they receive.

"The rooms are awesome," said Krissy Lieby, whose husband works in the 748th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and was stretched out quite comfortably in the chair next to her as she spoke to me.

Mrs. Lieby recently had her first child here and as a first-time mom she had lots of questions.

"The staff answered every question I had," she said. "They were very busy the night we came, but they still found the time to check on us."

As she looked at her newborn son Keenan, Mrs Lieby added, "they did everything to make it easier for us."

He might be a legend from the past, but with the 48th Medical Group on the job, the stork would be proud.