A Big Heart for Tiny Lives
As a former high school and college athlete, Dr. Courtney Stephenson is no stranger to strict schedules and disciplined practice. After spending two years as a dedicated and awarded gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University, Courtney made the life-changing decision to transfer to Fairfield University to focus on her medical career. Several years later, the newly-minted doctor found herself in Charlotte, NC, practicing as a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center. With an ever-present desire to learn and grow, she left to study at the Fetal Care Center of Cincinnati before returning to Charlotte to open the Charlotte Fetal Care Center (CFCC) in 2010. Courtney earned national recognition by becoming one of only a few maternal-fetal specialists in the United States who provide the life-saving surgery to treat twin-twin transfusion syndrome in utero, a condition which is fatal to fetuses in nearly all cases. As the only center in the Southeast that offers the fetoscopic surgery to treat this condition, Dr. Stephenson and her team can reverse outcomes for babies who would otherwise not survive life after birth. “It is truly lifesaving,” says Dr. Stephenson of the procedure.
Many of Courtney’s patients express how grateful they are to her for giving their babies a second chance at life. One patient, Meghan Hampton, is especially appreciative for Dr. Stephenson’s care. Meghan first came to Dr. Stephenson after learning she had a high-risk pregnancy with twins. In 2010, she delivered one baby, Scotlynn, who spent 10 weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Nursery (NICN) at Levine Children’s Hospital fighting for her life. Sadly, Scotlynn’s twin sister, Katelynn, did not survive. Thanks to Dr. Stephenson’s expertise and the NICN team at Levine Children’s Hospital, Scotlynn is now a vibrant nine-year-old enjoying life with older sister Ella and younger brother Jake. The Hamptons, grateful for the world-class care they received at CFCC and Levine Children’s, were inspired to give back and founded the Cottie and Cake Fund to honor the memory of their daughter.
“The Cottie and Cake Fund is very special and near-and-dear to my heart,” says Courtney. With their support, she is growing her practice to reach more families and save more lives. “Cottie and Cake has provided us with the majority of our operative equipment and ultrasound machines, which are vital to our surgery,” she adds. In addition to providing medical equipment for the CFCC, the Cottie and Cake Fund also supplies funding for patient services and improvements to the NICN at Levine Children’s Hospital.
In March, this world-class doctor will be tackling a new challenge: dancing on-stage alongside James Kopecky of the Charlotte Ballet in the Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte Gala. This annual event pairs professional dancers with local “stars” to raise funds for nonprofits of their choice. Courtney and her partner are dancing for the Charlotte Fetal Care Center, the Cottie and Cake Fund and the Neonatal Intensive Care Nursery at Levine Children’s Hospital.
When asked how surgery and dancing are alike, Courtney notes that she will approach her time on the stage with the same dedication that she approaches surgery. “I am a precision person. I imagine that on stage I’ll feel the pressure of the months of preparation and of getting ready to do something really important, which would be like performing surgery.” She hopes that her background as a gymnast will give her a leg up.
Funds raised in support of this star-pair will directly impact the tiniest patients who are bravely facing the battle of their lives. You can vote for Courtney and James as they dance for babies by visiting gala.charlotteballet.org.