Sunday, June 3, 2007

Happy Birthday (Miracle) Son!

At this moment 15 years ago, I was lying in a bed doped up on morphine. No, I'm not a recovering drug addict- I was recovering from an emergency C-section and my only-hours-old- firstborn son was on life support and preparing for transfer to a level 2 NICU at another hospital.

As I mentioned yesterday, today is Teenage Son's birthday- he turned 15 at 6:00 p.m. to be exact. I know that every new life is a miracle- but his truly is, you see- he was not expected to live. I've told the story of his birth, before, but today I thought I would take the time to write it all down- something I've never really done...

Teenage Son was born on a Wednesday, June 3, 1992- two weeks early. Earlier that day I had gone to lunch with my former co-workers (I had quit my job so that I could stay home when the baby was born). I was eating Thai food, and had a really bad backache- my friends kept saying, "maybe you're in labor". I remember saying "the thing about labor is that one way or another- eventually you'll know!" I went home and read about third trimester backaches in my pregnancy books, figuring it was just that- a bad backache... By late afternoon, however I called my doctor and made an appointment to be checked, thinking that he would just reassure me that everything was fine and send me home. I called my husband, J, who went to all my prenatal appointments with me and we went off to the doctor. When the doctor checked me his words were, "You need to go across the street to the hospital and check in right now". Now this is where I tell you how young (22) and dumb I was- because I just said "OK" and didn't even ask why... So we went over to the hospital, parked at the far end of the lot and walked in to check in at the ER where I informed the admitting nurse "I am not in labor- I don't even know why my doctor sent me here, I am not staying." Declining a wheel chair, we walked up to labor and delivery where I repeated my speech. The nurse responded "it's strange that he would send you over if you didn't need to be here" so she put me in a room and put me on a baby monitor while she went to check in with the doctor. She returned saying, "Dr B says that you are 5 centimeters dilated and you are definitely staying!" the nurse then showed me the contractions (which I did not feel) on the baby monitor and a few minutes later rolled in an ultrasound machine. Turning on the machine they informed me that my baby (who had been head down at my last appointment) had turned to a transverse lie breech position. I was also informed that I was on my way to a C-section. We quickly called a couple friends who wanted to be at the hospital when our baby was born, and my parents who live in Idaho and told them what was going on...

Shortly thereafter, I was laying on the operating table with an epidural while they delivered our son. I remember that they pulled him out and rushed him over to the open isolette where they started bagging him trying to get him to breathe. I couldn't really see what was going on, with all the nurses around him, but it was obvious that it was not good. I later learned that his one minute Apgar score was a 2 (anything below a 7 is concerning, below a 3 is an emergency). Not only was he not a healthy pink color, we wasn't even blue- he was gray. He had no muscle tone, no grimace response and he didn't even attempt to breathe. He did have a pulse- his only sign of life. The pediatrician who was present rushed him out of the operating room to the nursery to intubate him, passing our friends R and C, who were waiting outside. My friend R, has since told me how sad they thought it was to see that sick baby- not realizing that he was ours.

After our baby was somewhat stabilized and on life support, J was able to see him in the nursery. The nurses told me that they were transporting our baby to another hospital that would be better equipped to care for him. At 10 p.m. they brought him into my room in the transport isolette, so that I could see him for the first time. I remember putting my hand through the porthole to touch him. As I said his name, he turned his head towards me. I knew that he had heard me and recognized my voice... The transport team took a Polaroid of us- with our baby in the isolette, and gave me a Polaroid that they had taken earlier of him. Then they took our baby and left. I remained at El Camino Hospital in a maternity ward, with the Polaroid- while my baby went to Valley Medical Center for intensive care.

The next two days are a bit of a blur. There was lots of prayer, and support from our church family, as I began to recover at El Camino- while J ran back and forth between hospitals visiting me at one hospital and our baby at the other. I received visits from the hospital social workers who were trying to prepare me for the fact that my baby might die- something I didn't really figure out until later. Finally, on Friday, I informed my doctor that I needed to leave and see my baby. My mom, an RN, was flying in that day- so, reassured that I would be under good care, my doctor released me early from the hospital. My husband loaded all the flowers and cards that been sent to my room into our car, I was wheeled out to the car, and we left for the airport. After picking up my mom we went straight to Valley Med. I remember that I walked up to the NICU where I was taught how to scrub in and gown up before entering. If you've been in the NICU before- you know that it has a unique smell, to me it smells of betadine and vanilla pacifiers... I remember that, as sick as our baby was, he looked huge compared to the other babies in the room- all preemies. He couldn't cry, since he was still intubated and he had IV's stuck in his head and wires hooked up all over his body. But he was still the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, he was my baby. We spent a couple of hours with him and left- I remember that I was so exhausted that I couldn't walk back out and they had to get me a wheelchair. We continued with daily visits and I was given a breast pump and taught how to pump my milk at home and freeze it for future use.

After a week on life support, they started weaning our son off of the ventilator. On day 9, he was extubated and they started feeding him small amounts of glucose with a bottle. Immediately- he threw it all back up. After extensive tests, including a barium enema, they determined that he had been born with congenital duodenal atresia and needed surgery. Due to insurance issues, he was then also transferred to his third hospital, Good Samaritan.

The day after arriving at Good Sam, at 10 days old, he went in for surgery. I accompanied my son to the entrance of the operating room, where I met the pediatric surgeon who informed me, "Your baby is broken, I will fix him." We went to the waiting room until we were told that the surgery had gone well and our son was back in the NICU. He was back on the ventilator for the next 24 hours. After being extubated for the second time, I was finally able to hold my son for the first time- he was 13 days old. From that point on, I spent all my time in the NICU rocking him while he recovered- leaving only for shift changes and to sleep at home.

At 10 days post-op, and two blood transfusions later, he was able to start eating (up to this point, he was only receiving IV fluids). He was fed a small amount of my milk, starting with about one teaspoon, and his diapers would then be weighed to make sure that a proportionate amount of urine was being produced. The amount of milk would then be increased by 10 cc's (5 cc's is about a teaspoon) until he had worked his way up to a 4 oz feeding every 3-4 hours.

Only July 3rd, almost a month to the day after his birth. Our son was released from the hospital. We were so thrilled to have him home! He was still bottle feeding only, so I would pump my milk and then feed it to him; while working to get him switched to direct breast feeding. His head had bald spots all over where the nurses had shaved his thick, black hair, to insert IV's- my mom nicknamed him "Patches"... (I refused to shave the rest of his head, although looking back- I should have). His weight had dropped a full pound from his birth weight of 6 lbs 3 oz and he fit in preemie clothes only. He had a still-healing incision across his stomach from surgery and he had small cuts all over his heels from repeated blood tests, but he was still the most beautiful baby in the world...

After two weeks at home, our son started vomiting after feedings. This was not just your run of the mill spit-up. This was projectile-across-the room, everything-that-was-just-fed-is-now-coming-back-up vomit. After 24 hours of anxious parenting, we returned to Good Samaritan Hospital where an X-ray confirmed that our baby had developed another intestinal obstruction due to adhesions from the previous surgery. Another emergency surgery was needed to correct the obstruction. I was crying as I handed my son over to the pediatric surgeon, Dr P, for the second time. Dr P commented, "you didn't cry the last time we did this", I remember responding, "I hadn't had my baby home yet."

The surgery was once again, a success and our now one-month-old son's recovery was smooth. After repeating the measured feedings for 24 hours, he was upgraded to on demand feedings. We decided, with the nurses encouragement, to try direct breastfeeding. Our son was now so hungry that he didn't care what the milk was coming out of- and we were able to forgo the bottles. He was transferred from the NICU to the pediatric wing where I moved in, so that I could be on-hand to breastfeed. After a two-week recovery in the hospital, he was able to come home- this time for good.

The next year was filled with follow up care- weight checks, physical therapy, and frequent visits to the pediatrician to monitor his health. He was considered a "fragile baby" and needed to be kept from catching colds etc (no church nursery etc), but he continued to grow and thrive. My concerns about possible long term effects were put to rest, when he hit all his milestones- walking, talking, etc on target.

To look at him now, it's hard to believe that he was ever even sick. He's getting taller every day, he is finishing his freshman year of high school, and is a wonderful, godly young man. The only physical reminder of his rocky start, is the scar across his abdomen. As his mom, however, I will never forget what a miracle he truly is...