GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — Rachel Moore knows, better than most, what a blessing it is to have a newborn baby, peacefully, sleeping at home. She and her husband Jason Moore welcomed their newest addition to their family three months ago, a baby girl named Lacey.
“Having my newborn, it was a whole new experience,” said Moore.
Bringing Lacey home was a new experience for Moore because despite it being her second child, she never has had the chance to bring home Lacey’s big sister, 20-month-old Naomi.
“She belongs here,” said Moore. “It’s devastating and unfortunately life goes on outside the hospital, you work, you have other kids but part of you is still missing.”
A hospital room is the only home Naomi has ever known. She was born with a rare genetic condition.
“Naomi was born with an omphalocele,” said Moore. “Her abdominal organs are on the outside of her body. She was also born with an ASD [atrial septal defect] which is a hole in her heart.”
When she was first born, the Moores thought they’d be able to take her home after initial surgery and a couple of months in the hospital, but the road to get there has been bumpier and longer than they expected.
“She was paralyzed for two weeks at a time, I’ve watched her flatline, I’ve watched her turn blue and not be able to breathe. It’s been a long journey to get where we are,” she said.
Every single day, they take shifts at the hospital to visit their little girl.
“Birthdays in the hospital alone, different events and holidays, and worrying if you’re going to get a phone call that something happened in the middle of the night,” she said. “I’m thankful that everybody that’s met her fell in love with her and they take care of her like she’s their own, but I want her home.”
In December, the couple received the news they had been waiting for: Naomi was healthy enough to come home. But due to her omphalocele, she uses a tracheostomy tube and is on a ventilator, so in order for her to come home, she needs 24/7 supervision: a day and night nurse. But the Moores have hit another roadblock.
“It almost seems unreal that she’s able to come home and we are stuck and we aren’t able to get her out of there,” she said.
They can’t seem to find any eligible nurses who can fill the position.
“There’s a shortage and then with the pandemic, it was even worse with people not wanting to come into people’s homes due to COVID,” she said.
Pete Van Runkle with the Ohio Healthcare Association said the healthcare worker shortage isn’t getting better since the pandemic, but getting worse.
“It's not entirely about the pandemic. It's about people leaving the workforce and retiring, choosing to just stay home,” he said. “people are having a difficult time being able to find care for their loved ones in all kinds of environments.”
He said they’re working hard to attract younger people into the field and working with other groups to raise the wages of healthcare workers, especially nurses.
“We have to enhance the reimbursement to be able to allow our members and other providers to be able to pay the wages they need to attract staff,” he said.
But until the Moores can find the help they need, Naomi has to stay at University Hospitals and they’re still praying for the day that they can have their whole heart in one place.
“It’s extremely difficult and just having her home would mean everything,” said Moore.
University Hospitals couldn’t comment on Naomi’s situation of the at-home healthcare shortage.
Moore said the minimum requirements for Naomi’s home care would be anyone who is an LPN, an RN or a retired nurse with an active license. The candidate needs a minimum of one-year experience. Tracheostomy tube and ventilator training will be provided.
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