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Challenge: NICU Parenting

NICU Family

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It never occurred to me how important NICU staff, facilities, and equipment would become to our family. We learned in December 2005 just how special they are. My 3rd son was due January 26. I'd had 2 very healthy full term sons already, and fully expected this one to be like the others. Wrong. I began having contractions on Dec. 19 at 34.5 weeks, but was able to slow and mostly stop them with complete inactivity. On the morning of the 20, I attended my middle son's kindergarten Christmas program at his school, and knew I wasn't feeling great. Got to work afterwards, and found that I couldn't "see" half of my computer screen. My blood pressure had shot up to 179/119. We went to the doctor's office, where they monitored me for a couple of hours. I was sent over to the hospital. The obstetrician noticed that the baby was having late decels during contractions. That meant during a contraction, his heart rate was dropping to about nothing. They quickly prepped me for a C-section, something I'd never had before. As they got in to him, they found that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck a couple of times (hence, the decels), he was breach, and I had had placenta abruptia some time during the pregnancy. The placenta was basically hanging by a thread. I heard the baby faintly cry, so I relaxed some (I'd had a panic attack on the table, didn't like being strapped down). However, they quickly put my baby in my husband's arms and said, "Follow us." His lungs weren't fully developed, although we was a fairly healthy size for a preemie at 5 lbs 1 oz. They took him upstairs to the NICU, and that was all I knew for a few hours. I was told he wasn't breathing well, but they were taking great care of him, and the ventilator would breathe for him until he could breathe on his own. Stunned, to say the least. I did not see him until the next day during visiting hours. I had to suit up in a sterilized gown, and could only have one other visitor with me. He was hooked up to so many tubes and machines, but he looked very peaceful. And, he was healthy-looking! At his size, they called him Big Man in the NICU. I looked around, and there were so many tiny little humans. It's very overwhelming to be hit with the reality that your child is in an intensive care unit at a day old. That he requires such detailed care just to survive. When they began weaning him off the vent in a day or two, he was taking 140 breaths per minute. He was fighting just to breathe. And, then your hormones are doing what they do after childbirth, and you just want to fall completely a part. Leaving the hospital on day 3 without my baby was torturous. The nurses told us we were "paid up" in our room until midnight, so we stayed until then. Unimaginable, you really just can't imagine how you are going to find the strength to walk out of there without that baby. Lots of crying, I'll just leave it at that. But, our baby boy is a fighter, and he gradually improved. Our older 2 sons met their brother on Christmas day (I didn't want them to see him hooked up to all the machines), and we spent the holiday there with the wonderful nurses and other families. He graduated from the intensive side to the progressive side after a few days, then was discharged on Dec. 29. He has thrived since. He is an all A student in the 6th grade, was in the gifted and talented program at school, and plays football and basketball. Our family donates annually to the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, specifically the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund to provide money needed to purchase neonatal equipment. This wonderful place saved our baby, and I will forever be grateful.

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