One doctor’s special deliveries

A Va. doctor delivers

HE DELIVERS! Or at least, a very busy Virginia doctor DID before calling it quits at midnight last night. Just how busy was he?
Martha Teichner shows us:

Counting down, Jessica Turner was number 23. When she arrived at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia, at around 8 p.m., Turner was met by her obstetrician, Dr. Edward Wolanski.

Following this delivery, he would have 22 left. He would go out with the old year -- no more deliveries after Dec. 31.

Jessica Turner gave birth to a girl, at 9:18 on October 4th. “And so my family’s complete,” she said. “Got my boy and my girl,” named Jaelle.

Wolanski delivered her 19-month-old son, too. So when Turner and her husband discovered that he was retiring from the obstetrics part of his practice, they panicked, momentarily.

“I was like, ‘Please, Lord, let him just do us this one favor and deliver this baby!’” she laughed.

Teichner asked Dr. Wolanski, “Have you any idea how many babies you’ve delivered?”

“Well, I know it’s over 10,000 but I can’t tell you an exact number,” he replied. “I tried to look at it and see, if we take all these 10,000 and put ‘em in a stadium, think how many people that would be!”

Wolanski’s wife, Cindy, who runs his office, said, “The little town that I came from had 10,000 people, so I’m thinking, ‘Oh my goodness’ you know? That’s how I look at that number -- he’s delivered my whole town!”

Call it a mom-and-pop operation. Wolanski is a solo practitioner, a rarity in today’s medical landscape. He sees these women from start to finish -- no hand-off to a stranger at the hospital.

“He’s really calming,” said Brett Baker. “I mean, he’s been with my family a long time. He delivered my youngest sister. My mom was a patient of his.”

And he delivered both of Baker’s other children. “I tell them, ‘He was the first person to touch you guys, to hold you guys. He gave you to me.’”

It is the relationship he develops with each of his patients that explains their intense devotion, especially when things go wrong.

“The first time we met him, actually, we were in the throes of a miscarriage, and it was our first, so it was pretty emotional,” said Mary Elizabeth Luzar. “And he immediately showed a lot of compassion and care.”

Which gave Mary Elizabeth and Kase Luzar the confidence to try again, through three more miscarriages.

“Everybody here has always been so welcoming,” Kase said. “They know us. They know our story.  So we’re not just kind of nameless faces when we walk through the door.”

Wolanski figures he’s handled 4,000-5,000 miscarriages in his more than 30-year career.

Teichner asked, “Is the flip side of that incredible joy that you’ve experienced, are you crushed? Are you heartbroken?”

“Absolutely. Yeah. It’s very painful sometimes, but you know, it’s just part of life.”

He eventually delivered the Luzars’ daughter, Adele, now 4 ½, and gave in when they begged him to stay on to deliver their next child.

As for Helen Cohoon, her third pregnancy was actually planned around him: “He is as much a part of the pregnancy and delivery as our family.

“When we found out Dr. Wolanski was retiring from that side of things, we got straight to it trying to get pregnant so we could sneak in. Yeah, it was, it’s that important. It’s like now or never!” she laughed.

Being Dr. Wolanski’s last baby will be, Cohoon said, “the honor of honors.”

At the start of his career, Dr. Wolanski tried group practice, but pretty quickly decided solo practice was more satisfying. “It’s definitely harder,” he admitted. “You have to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If somebody calls you up at 3 in the morning and says they’re in labor, you don’t have to look for a chart. You know who they are; you know what their situation is.”

The largest number of births he’s had to juggle at the same time? “I did ten deliveries in probably eight hours once,” he said.

Luckily he’s one of those people who only needs three or four hours of sleep a night -- which means somehow he manages to spend time with Cindy and their two grown sons, and to ride his Harley, and tend his bees, and run. (He took up running marathons at age 50. Now 60, he’s run 25.)

So when his patients wanted to pay tribute to the doctor they consider family, holding a two-mile charity run in his name was a no-brainer.

Here was the largest gathering of Wolanski babies and their parents ever.

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A few of the parents and children Dr. Edward Wolanski has assisted, at a charity run held in his honor. CBS News

This is what Dr. Wolanski treasures, and will miss.  “This is not about me at all; this is about you,” he told the crowd. “You know, I didn’t pick you. You guys picked me.  You chose me to be part of your family and be part of your most special event, having a baby.”

At the end of the run, Brett Baker went into labor, and Dr. Wolanski delivered her second boy.

Then, he had 13 deliveries left. 

By the time Mary Elizabeth Luzar gave birth to a second daughter on November 18, the count was down to 9.

And Helen Cohoon? She was indeed last …  and that was that.

Just like a movie with a happy ending -- sweet and sad at the same time.

The baby’s name? Freyja Louise Wolanski Cohoon.

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Dr. Edward Wolanski with Freyja Louise Wolanski Cohoon: The last of the approximately 10,000 babies he has delivered.  CBS News

      
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