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First Lady meets with parents at Piedmont Henry


By Alex Welch
Assistant Editor 

  With hundreds of mothers bringing babies into the world for the first time, the First Steps Program at Piedmont Henry Hospital makes a consistent effort to prepare these new parents for their task ahead. To recognize all the work they do, Georgia’s First Lady paid the program a visit to witness the process firsthand.

Sandra Deal gives a congratulations card to Stephanie and Terrance Stodghill for their new son, Jacob. The card contains immunization records and a growth chart to monitor Jacob’s development.                       Photo by Alex Welch

  Sandra Deal, wife of Gov. Nathan Deal, was at Piedmont Henry on Monday, July 29, to show her support of First Steps. As she toured the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Marcia G. Taylor Woman’s Center, Deal spoke with parents and found out more about the ongoing work at the hospital.

  Deal said her husband named her the honorary Chair of the Office of Children in Families. This agency funds several projects through grants to benefit families and children in Georgia. The First Steps Program, which is a part of Prevent Child Abuse Henry County, is one cause that Deal is particularly concerned with. She said getting immunizations for newborns at the right time is vital to their health.

  “It’s very important for us to give our young mothers and newborn babies a good opportunity to grow up healthy, and we feel like getting immunizations at the proper time is very important,” said Deal. “We think it’s important to get the regular checkups and the immunizations at the right time so they’re spread out the proper way and they don’t have to take a lot of shots all at one time or have to take the shots more than once.”

  Parents can easily miss an immunization or have their children receive the same shot twice, according to Deal. With this in mind, she handed out congratulation cards that included immunization records for new parents to log their activity. The card also provided room to document growth as the baby’s age.

  “I know it’s easy to miss an appointment and have to double up on something, and that’s just not fair to a baby. Plus, it also helps you keep a record of their growth to make sure they’re growing properly,” said Deal.

  Deal talked about her own experiences with the parents she visited, and she said going through this process with her own family has helped her understand what needs to be done.

  “I have children and grandchildren of my own, and I remember when some of these diseases were really epidemic almost. I had people I went to school with who had polio. Lots of us had mumps and measles,” said Deal. “To be able to prevent some of these things is just really great. My effort is to encourage parents to give these immunizations to protect their children, but also to do it in the manner prescribed so that they don’t overdo it.”

  Antoinette Paragon-Singh, a First Steps volunteer, showed Deal what her job entails as she assists new parents on a regular basis. Paragon-Singh provides a bag full of information for the parents, including tips on safe sleep, how to prevent sudden infant death syndrome and shaken baby syndrome, and who to contact for help after leaving the hospital.

  “I go through and I see as many moms as I can. — sometimes six to seven moms for the time that I’m here,” said Paragon Singh. “I help make sure that they have a doctor they’re going to be seeing, because once they’ve had the baby and they do that first or second follow-up visit, moms tend not to go back, so we try to encourage them to do that.”

  Paragon-Singh said her job isn’t just about providing information. She has to figure out what each mother needs most.

  “Each patient is different, so you have to cater to their needs. I have to take time to get to know them. Based on my interaction and the information I get from my chart, I’m able to tailor what I’m going to say,” said Paragon-Singh.

  First Steps President Pritti Griffin said the program has been running at Piedmont Henry since 1997. Last year, they assisted 878 new mothers at the hospital.



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