Sandra Deal, wife of Gov. Nathan Deal, visited the maternity ward Friday morning at Fort Stewart’s Winn Army Community Hospital.
As co-chairwoman for the Georgia Children’s Cabinet, Georgia’s first lady is traveling around the state this month to promote Immunization Awareness Month. She said her visit to Winn ACH brought back memories of her first-born son’s birth at Fort Gordon “many years ago.”
Her husband was assigned to Fort Gordon after completing his law degree at Mercer University.
Deal was escorted through the hospital to the maternity ward by Lt. Col. Richard Malish, Winn ACH deputy commander for clinical services; Maj. Michelle Wolf, chief of labor and delivery; and state Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler.
Both Malish and Wolf told Deal they recently became parents and talked about their experiences at “baby boot camp,” where they learned about birthing and parenting skills. Carter said he soon will be a grandfather for the first time. His daughter-in-law is expecting twin girls this month.
Deal and her escorts were met at the maternity ward by Dr. Lt. Col. Maxwell Hecht, chief of the maternity ward. After detailing recent renovations to the maternity ward, Hecht told Deal the hospital’s policy is to keep the newborns with their moms as much as possible unless there’s some type of medical complication.
“Things have sure changed a lot since I had my first baby,” said Deal, who explained how military moms were often treated like soldiers, with commands coming over the maternity-ward intercom. “I had my first baby in an Army hospital. This was back in the dark ages ... (I remember) they would say, ‘Mothers, come get your babies.’”
Deal was proud to say her first born now is a dad and a judge. She went on to have three more children while teaching school and supporting her husband’s public-service career.
She expressed a grandmother’s enthusiasm while visiting the rooms of military couples who just had welcomed their babies Friday morning. She told each new mom how “cute and precious” her baby was and thanked her for allowing her to visit. She also thanked the couples for their service to the nation.
She first met Capt. John and Ashley Allen with their newborn, Owen. She gave the couple an immunization card designed and produced by Hallmark. The card included a message from the Deals:
“Congratulations on the birth of your new child! As proud parents and grandparents, we want to remind you that starting immunizations by two months of age is one of the best ways to protect your infant. Please help us ensure that all Georgia babies will be given an opportunity for a safe and healthy life. Each life is precious.”
The card was signed by the governor and first lady.
Deal told each couple the immunization card listed each of the necessary immunizations needed for a child to enroll in public schools. She explained it was not a replacement of their child’s official shot record, but something a mom can keep in her purse or baby book and have readily available.
Deal also talked with Tony and Ashley Blocker with their newborn, Carl.
“We love children, and we want them to grow up healthy and safe and educated,” Deal said. “We want their parents to know these children need regular checkups, and they need immunizations. ... Over the years, we’ve tried hard to wipe out polio, measles, chicken pox and whooping cough. Mumps, once upon a time, prevented you from having children. ... We can prevent these diseases.”
She said the immunization card she gives out to new parents especially is helpful to military families, who move around a lot. It provides a record of a child’s shots for a new pediatrician, she said.
Deal said she appreciated the opportunity to visit Winn and to see the newborns. She also commented that the new moms seemed strong and healthy.