Stephanie O’Connor gave birth to her two daughters, Aubrey, standing, and Ivy at the Northern Hospital in Epping. It was Ms O’Connor’s exceptional patient experience that led her to a career change and start studying nursing. ​

A mother of two, with a third child on the way, has changed career paths and become a Northern Health staff member after a patient experience in May 2018 that left a lasting impression.

Previously working as a call centre manager, Stephanie O’Connor was preparing for the delivery of her first child when she discovered she had long QT syndrome, a rare genetic heart condition that can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats, which she could pass on to her children.

“This is not a common condition. When this was discovered, a large multidisciplinary team formed at Northern Hospital to take care of me and the baby. We had multiple appointments and planning sessions to ensure a safe delivery for all,” Ms O’Connor said.

After 38 weeks, baby Aubrey was born, and Ms O’Connor had to be immediately sent to the intensive care unit, ICU, for cardiac monitoring, while the baby was in the neonatal ward, just 110 metres away.

“This distance sounds small, but it was huge at the time. I was hooked onto so many devices and wasn’t able to walk around, and all I wanted was to see my baby,” she said.

“The team from both wards went above and beyond to ensure I could see my child, at least for a brief moment.”

Ms O’Connor’s care was complex and she had to spend 10 days in ICU while baby Aubrey was monitored at Northern Hospital’s neonatal ward, as her ECGs showed signs of the same condition.

After four weeks, Aubrey’s genetic tests showed she had inherited the condition.

“Having a baby is a happiest time in someone’s life – and I remember thinking, not only did I just discover I had a rare and serious condition, but I have given it to my baby as well,” Ms O’Connor said.

Ms O’Connor did not let her condition stop her from expanding her family. She safely delivered her second daughter Ivy, whose genetics test came back negative, also at Northern Hospital, and is planning to do the same with her third child.

While the experience of discovering a new condition while pregnant was frightening for Ms O’Connor, she said she spoke highly of her experience.

“As a patient, I know I have my part to play and that it is a 50-50 relationship,” she said.

The experience motivated Ms O’Connor to reconsider her career. She now works in the nursing workforce unit at Northern Hospital, Epping and is in her second year of nursing studies.

“Nursing is something I’ve always considered, but never actually thought I would go for,” she said.

“After the fantastic experience I had and all the people that I met at Northern Hospital, especially the ICU nurses, I realised I should take the plunge and just go for it.”