Saturday, October 27, 2007

Asher's Story: Part II

I just laid Asher down so I will try to finish this up :)

Around midnight I got to go up to the NICU. It was determined that he was stable enough to go to Level II. The nurse rolled me up there, along with Kris, to look at him. He was laying on his tummy, all curled up, under an Oxyhood, which just looks like a big space helmet. His hair was still all matted to his head, but it was long and blonde! He got lots of special attention because of his pretty hair :) I was pretty out of it still but I remember just looking at him thinking he must be so confused--like what's the deal with all this bright stuff and all the people poking me. We were told that he was doing good, but that things will probably get worse before they get better.

The next day, or maybe the next(I think), Kris ran home to get some stuff for me. No one was there in the room with me and the neonatalogist, Dr. Haney, came in and his words were "well, you know if you see me it's bad news." Of course I started to freak out. Not a great way to start a conversation with a new mom. He told me that Asher was struggling to breathe regular room air and that they would have to upgrade him to Level III NICU in order to hook him up to a machine that would help his lungs inflate and deflate until his body started making enough surfactant to do it on his own. They had also taken a blood culture to watch for bacterial growth to determine if there was an infection. Nothing had grown in the culture at that point so Dr. Haney reassured me that since we probably weren't dealing with an infection, just premature lungs, that he would be OK. He also reminded me what he said about things getting worse first. Asher was in serious condition, but the main thing he needed was time to mature and help in doing that.

In Level III, only parents and grandparents are allowed in. You walk into a little washroom first. You have to wash your hands and use a nailpick to clean underneath your fingernails. Then you dry off and use some anti-bacterail gel and then you can enter. I was still recovering from the c-section, but I would go up there as much as I could to see him. Kris stayed up there most of the time, which made me feel better. I'm sure I recovered from the surgery so fast because I had good motivation to get out of bed and walk.

Asher was hooked up to a CPAP, which helped pressurize his lungs, an IV, and a feeding tube. He was actually the big guy back there. Most of the babies were around 2 or 3 pounds, so Asher looked really big at his whopping 4 lb. 13 oz. We weren't allowed to hold him or feed him yet, so we would just sit next to him and cup our hands around his head and pat his bottom. We still laugh about one of the nurses commenting to Kris that Asher likes to have his bottom patted. Kris' response was "Well who doesn't like a good bottom pat?" The nurse wasn't quite sure how to take that.

In Level III, the nurses are very intense becuase most of the babies back there are really sick. They were more than competant, but they kind of made me feel like I was in the way. One exception was this one little Scottish nurse. She was so sweet and gentle with Asher. I was feeling completely useless and she came over to us and told us that we were doing the best thing that we could do for him by sitting with him and touching him and talking to him. She told us that he needed to feel us and hear us and that is what will help him just as much, if not more, than all the medical interventions. I needed to hear that! I will never forget her and her kindness to us that night.

Each day he continued to improve. They were able to turn down the oxygen more and more until eventually he was breathing regular room air. By Saturday, he had improved enough to come off of the CPAP. He still had to have a nasal canula, but he was breathing on his own! His poor little veins started to present a problem, though. He had been stuck everywhere he could be. His veins are like mine--they shut down under pressure. The last option was his head. I was going in to see him that afternoon and Paula, the charge nurse, met me as I was going in. She told me that they had to put it in his head, but that she did it herself because she wanted to make sure that 1) they didn't shave his pretty blonde hair and 2) that it didn't hurt him. She knew she could do it almost painlessly. She told me she gave him some "sweeties" which is basically sugar water that acts as an painkiller because it causes the babies to release endorphins. She assured me he barely flinched. Paula is another one of the nurses that we will never forget fo rher kindness to us.

One of the reasons being off CPAP was so great was because it meant we finally got to hold him. Five days later, we had him in our arms, albeit with tubes and cords everywhere. We didn't care though because we were just so thrilled to hold him. It was wonderful! He was so tiny! This was another time that Nurse Paula came through for us. They are very strict about getting everybody out during shift change and for good reason. The nurses coming on have to be updated on the babies and they don't need a bunch of extra bodies in there. The doctor had given the OK for me to hold him and Kris called the room to let me know. I was in the middle of pumping so I told him I would hobble down there as fast as I could, which was not very fast. By the time I got there, they were just a few minutes away from a shift change. But Paula told me that me getting to hold my baby was more important than rules right then. So she set up a screen and let us hide for a while and hold our baby. Then she snuck us out :)

I was discharged from the hospital that night. They said the room was ours until midnight, so guess what time we left. By that time, we had pretty much abandoned the idea we had in our minds as to what "having a baby" would be like, so leaving him, while really hard to do, was just part of what God ordained for us. We were learning to trust Him and to be patient. We knew God kept watch and never left Asher, even though we had to.

The next day, I think, he was downgraded to the Level II NICU. This meant that he was breathing on his own and all of his vitals remained consistent. He was still being fed through a tube in his nose up until then and via the IV. Now his job was to eat, maintain his own body temp, and keep his heart rate consistent. Over the next week, he continued to make progress. We laugh now, as he guzzles down his bottles, how we used to watch on pins and needles as he ate, just hoping to get 30 mililiters down him. We would spend our days at the hospital, leaving during the mid-day shift change to eat and at the evening shift change to go home to sleep. Each day we saw him getting stronger and doing better, so we knew it wouldn't be long.

The only setback we had during that time was when the monitors that detected his heartrate and oxygen saturation level indicated an episode of bradycardia, essentially his heart slowing down too much. We had just been told that he would be out in a few days because everything was looking so good and then he has an episode, which is an automatic 6 more days in the NICU for observation. The doctor on call when it occurred looked over his charts and told us that she felt it was not true bradycardia because he had no other symptoms present that usually accompany it, but she warned us that if any of the other docs disagreed with her, she would be overruled and he would have to stay longer. Of course, one of the doctors disagreed. So he got 6 more days of time to serve.

Wow--this is really long. Looks like there will be a Part III--more later.

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