Sunday, August 24, 2014

An Unexpected Trip to the NICU (Part I)

The ride to the hospital was bumpy and uncomfortable. Four days earlier, I had delivered a baby. Riding in that ambulance, I was suddenly aware that my body was far from recovering from my recent delivery. With each bump, my stitches felt even more pronounced….my uterus, tender and swollen. Shouldn’t I be at home?  Shouldn’t I be watching my newborn sleeping blissfully in his bassinet.  

But I wasn’t.  

Instead, I was in route to the NICU with a newborn that, for some reason, had an alarmingly low body temperature. 

That morning, M had slept longer than normal. At first, I thought he was just a good sleeper. However, something seemed off.  Even for a newborn, he seemed too sleepy. Although I thought I was being paranoid, I took him in to see his pediatrician, for reassurance. I assumed I would be back home in no time.

But I wasn’t.

As the nurse took my son’s vitals, a perplexed look came over her face. His body temperature wasn’t registering on the thermometer.  When a number finally did pop up, she said “that can’t be right” and tried again.The thermometer began “searching” for temperature again. When it appeared, the number was dangerously low.  After seeing a pediatrician, she said M would need to go to the hospital. 

We were moved into a holding room and given a big blanket. I was instructed to practice kangaroo care, aka skin to skin contact, with M. As I held him close, he became increasingly unresponsive.   He didn’t budge, even when he was pricked with needles for various tests.  

I tried to keep it together.  However, sleep deprivation and stress isn’t a good combination.  The tears began slowly drifting down my cheeks and then more rapidly, until I could no longer simply brush them away.  An attendant assured me that if the doctors were really worried they would have had him airlifted to a special hospital.  This made me feel a bit better.

But not really. 

After what seemed like ages, the ambulance came.  Since M was a baby, he had to ride in his carseat.  And, then began the long, bumpy ride to the NICU.  

Having already had a premature child, I was familiar with the NICU. However, this was different. When my first child, my daughter, had stayed in the NICU, it was merely as a precaution. Like my daughter, M was a late preterm child.  Since he was six pounds and appeared to be thriving, the doctors didn’t put him in the NICU. Looking back now, I wish I would have pushed for him to stay a night for observation because now, this was serious.

M was hooked up on oxygen and a bunch of other little devices, tubes and wires. When we eventually talked to the doctor, he began listing possible reasons our little guy was struggling. Words such as meningitis, spinal tap and blood infection were being thrown at me and I wondered how I went from holding my sweet baby at home to this…..

Did your child ever have to stay in the NICU?

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