MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There’s a lot of excitement and anxiety that comes with having your first child and nobody knows that better than Dr. Autumn Kiefer.
Kiefer is the divisional chief of neonatology at WVU Medicine Children’s who spends a lot of time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) treating newborns and notably premature babies. She spent years in the NICU as a professional until she became pregnant and gave birth to premature triplets in 2016.
You feel like you know it in and out, but I think being on the parent side was humbling of just seeing even though I have the experience of, kind of, knowing some of the medical ups and downs that were likely and that were probably going to come along. But living them as a parent was just really different because it’s with the emotional part of you, it’s with your heart and not with your head. And so it was just kind of different to see because it didn’t matter how many times you counseled someone or you tell them about what to expect.Dr. Autumn Kiefer – Division Chief, Neonatology
Kiefer’s children spent 52 days in the NICU being watched over by essentially guardian angels from the way she tells it. NICU staff took care of children and for that, Kiefer said, she is grateful.
In fact, she said she does not see herself as a hero, but instead the dedicated team that took care of her babies.
“I really felt a lot of comfort in knowing that the people that I work with are very persistent and very knowledgeable,” Kiefer said. “And they fight hard for every baby and every family and so knowing that they had them was just kind of like gave that ease.”
That ease allowed Kiefer and her husband, who also works at WVU Medicine, to be optimistic and not lose their spirit. That’s partially why it’s hard for Kiefer to see herself as a hero — she is just one part of a well-oiled machine geared towards saving lives.
“I say every day, I’m super proud to be part of that team because they give me my kids and what bigger thing can someone do for you,” Kiefer said.
Four years later, the triplets are as healthy, loving and playful as anyone their age. Kiefer is using their story to hopefully inspire others.
She shared her experience on the WVU Medicine website so everyone who goes through her experience knows that they are not the first and definitely not alone.
“If we can share and raise that awareness, then I think it makes it more normal or more expected, or people know who others are in their life that have been through this who can just offer support during the stressful times,” Kiefer said.
This constant drive to help the most vulnerable lives, even through her personal experiences, is what makes Kiefer a Healthcare Hero. She may credit her team for all the work, but she, too, is a critical member of that team.