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Rural Roots: Growing Babies and Health Advocacy
Patient Stories

Rural Roots: Growing Babies and Health Advocacy

January 17, 2020

Born and raised in Pembina County, Kallie Christenson always dreamed of planting roots with her high school sweetheart, Brett, in Drayton, North Dakota.

An hour north of Grand Forks, the couple settled into adult life after college—Kallie as a public health nurse and Brett as a farmer. A few years ago, they started to get baby fever.

“I’ve always wanted to be a mom,” smiles Kallie.

“Working in healthcare myself, I find it difficult to choose a provider that meets my criteria,” shares Kallie. “Dr. Lessard exceeds it all!”

Kallie was looking for a relatable provider in a similar stage of life.

“I feel like it’s important to be able to connect on multiple levels in this area of medicine.”

From genuine real-life conversations to wise “mom hacks,” Dr. Lessard provided the physical, mental and emotional care that Kallie craved most.

The Stork’s in Town

After a few years under Dr. Lessard’s care and with the help of prayer and patience, the Christensons discovered their dreams were coming true. A baby was on the way!

While traveling Pembina County through her nursing career, Kallie knew she needed to save as much paid time off and sick time as possible for her upcoming maternity leave. That’s where Dr. Lessard’s regular visits to Altru’s Specialty Care in Cavalier came in extra handy.

With her office located at the Pembina County Courthouse in Cavalier, Kallie was able to easily bop over to Altru’s Specialty Care for monthly appointments. “I even did my labs and glucose tolerance test there. It was a huge cost and time savings for my family and employer! With MyChart messages and callbacks usually within the same hour, I was continually connected to my care team.”

Planning Ahead

Rural living, while full of the perks of peace and quiet, did cause some concern.

“As my due date got closer, I worried about having to travel from Drayton to Grand Forks in labor. I didn’t want my proximity to the hospital to impact the outcome.”

As months turned to weeks, Kallie found it comforting when Dr. Lessard provided her schedule and planned birth around her availability.

“I designed my care plan around a natural birth,” shares Kallie. “I used a birthing ball, music and yoga mat—everything I could think of! After 30 hours without medication, I decided I was ready for an epidural.”

woman in birth labor

Hello, Baby

The Christensons welcomed their little man, Jett, into the world in August of 2016, at 8 pounds, 3.5 ounces. Because Kallie had a fever during delivery, Jett had to spend a little time in the NICU for observation. He checked out perfectly healthy.

“As we left the hospital, I remember Dr. Lessard paused what she was doing, appeared in her surgical gear, and gave me the biggest hug,” smiles Kallie. “It meant so much to me.”

Six weeks later, Kallie was running into some breastfeeding issues.

“New motherhood was a wild ride, but Dr. Lessard guided me through it all. Her support and generosity was unending, and I never felt like I had a dumb question.”

Here We Go Again

Soon after, at her annual check-up, they discussed birth control options. Kallie decided against it, and soon enough, two lines appeared on the stick again! Several months later, they learned Jett would have a baby sister.

All went well throughout the pregnancy, with regular check-ups in Cavalier until weekly appointments near the end.

“The only difference was I planned my epidural this time,” laughs Kallie.

Going into labor naturally at 41 weeks, Kallie and Brett left Drayton at 4 a.m. to get to Altru Hospital. “Brett was counting the minutes between my contractions while watching the road,” shares Kallie. “I’m sure he was super nervous, but he didn’t show it a bit!”

Baby girl, Maren, was born in September of 2018 at 8 pounds, 12.5 ounces. All was right in the world.

Thinking back, Kallie recalls her absolute favorite nurse, or “angel in scrubs,” Amber H. Kallie describes, “She made me feel like I was her only patient, her main focus for the day. She thought of everything from ice chips and cool towels on my forehead to a fan, birth ball and snacks for my mom and husband. After Maren was born, she made sure we had plenty of private time to ourselves with limited interruptions to experience the Golden Hour, initiate breastfeeding, and have skin-to-skin with both mom and dad. She didn’t miss a beat.”

“Leading up to Maren’s birth, I remember feeling overwhelmed with two kids so close in age,” shares Kallie. “Dr. Lessard continued to share all the real-life tips and tricks. She advised me to keep Jett in his crib while I nursed Maren during the day, and gently bounce Maren’s bouncer with my foot while rocking Jett and sneaking in a quick bedtime story. Her suggestions are worth more than gold.”

woman with kids

Advocacy Beyond the Clinic

Beyond being a mom to three and often working around the clock for her patients, Dr. Lessard also makes time for advocacy and policy change.

“She is such a wonderful advocate for women’s health in our region,” shares Kallie. “She’s made it her life’s mission to improve breastfeeding experiences for all mothers wanting to breastfeed, provide access to quality OBGYN care in rural settings, and collaborate with community agencies like local public health, WIC and multiple breastfeeding coalitions. It’s refreshing to see a provider who cares this deeply!”

Growing Babies and Career

Today, the Christensons are raising their babies (now ages two years and almost one!) while beginning to build their dream home in Drayton. Beyond her favorite role as mom, Kallie continues to be passionate about her nursing career and its focus on prevention and health improvement for all.

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