Saturday, November 23, 2013

Settling in

out for my first stroll. brisk!

It’s such a wonderful, wild change to have Calder home, to have him become entirely our responsibility, to not have to leave his side every night, to be able to hold him and cuddle him without the roughness and separation of a disposable yellow hospital gown. To be able to get to know what calms him, what frustrates him, how he likes to be held, his favorite temperature for his bath. What time he gets up in the middle of the night. :)

my new "bed"

The most-asked question of us since we've had our little guy under our own roof has been whether we got any sleep the first night. Annnnnd the answer to that would be a no. :) Many of the NICU folks told us Calder would need some time to adjust to his new environment before being able to really settle in. The real bugger is that his monitor is set to alarm when his oxygen saturation hits or dips below 94%, which is quite a bit higher than the 88% it was set to at the hospital. Especially at night, he does like to hover around 93 and 94. He could be in a very deep sleep, but the noise of the alarm rouses him. At that point, if he starts kicking even an iota, the pulsox won’t read properly anyway, which then too leads to the lovely loud beeping.

On Friday we met our pediatrician for the first time. I’d done a fair amount of scoping in order to pick one out – seeking input from NICU nurses and doctors, raising the issues on my very active Moms on The Hill listserv, calling the practices with a list of questions – but that scoping had not extended to an actual meeting. We really like her. Our early impression is that Dr T is knowledgeable, empathetic (she had a preemie, too), energetic, dedicated and friendly. There was a little confusion when we arrived at 11:30 am for a noon appointment, as though our case worker had provided us with the date and time of the appointment, there was no appointment on the practice’s books. The front desk did what they could, suggesting we either wait to see Dr T at 12:30 or see another doctor right at noon. We opted to wait. But when they explained the situation to Dr T, she told us to come back immediately, that she’d fit us in. This demonstrated to me that they understand how challenging logistics can be with a preemie and how time is precious (fitting in appointments between G-tube feedings and pumping, which both require space and equipment), and that it’s important not to leave a preemie hanging out in germ-heavy waiting room.

I found out about halfway through our NICU stay that the nurses read our blog. Surprise! I had not given them the blog address and had only spoken about it on maybe one or two occasions to one or two nurses. But how sweet! I was touched that they went to the trouble to find it, that they continued to read it through his discharge and that many promised they’d still be looking for updates once we were home. So I hope they are reading now, because one thing Dr T said struck a chord with both Kraemer and I: “your baby is well cared for.” She said this matter-of-factly and with admiration. We know he was, of course, because we’ve seen the care the NICU nurses took with our son. But I think her comment and tone speaks volumes.

And on that note, if all you fantastic Inova Fairfax nurses haven’t seen this letter (and below) printed in the Huffington you should definitely read it. I know it expresses how Kraemer and I feel and likely sums up how many of your other NICU parents feel too. You should be very proud of the work you do.

Dear NICU Nurse

september 13, 2013 by heather hucks
Dear NICU Nurse,

To be honest, I never knew you existed. Back when our birth plan included a fat baby, balloons and a two-day celebratory hospital stay, I had never seen you. I had never seen a NICU. Most of the world hasn’t. There may have been a brief, “This is the Neonatal floor” whilst drudging by on a hospital tour. But no one really knows what happens behind those alarm-secured, no-window-gazing, doors of the NICU. Except me. And you.

I didn’t know that you would be the one to hold and rock my baby when I wasn’t there. I didn’t know that you would be the one to take care of him the first 5 months of his life as I sat bedside, watching and wishing that I was you. I didn’t know that you would be the one to hand him to me for the first time, 3 weeks after he was born. That you would know his signals, his faces, and his cries. Sometimes, better than me. I didn’t know you. I didn’t know how intertwined our lives would become.

I know you now. I’ll never be able to think of my child’s life, without thinking of you.

I know that in the NICU, you really run things. That your opinions about my baby’s care often dictates the course and direction or treatment as you consult with the neonatologist every day. I know that you don’t hesitate to wake a sometimes sleeping doctor in the nearby call room because my baby’s blood gas number is bad. Or because his color is off. Or because he has had 4 bradys in the last 45 minutes. Or because there’s residual brown gunk in his OG tube.

I know now that you are different from other nurses.

I know that, at times, you are assigned to just one baby for 12 hours straight. You are assigned to him because he is the most critically sick and medically fragile baby in the unit. I’ve seen you sit by that baby’s bedside for your entire shift. Working tirelessly to get him comfortable and stable. Forgoing breaks while you mentally will his numbers to improve. I’ve seen you cry with his family when he doesn’t make it. I’ve seen you cry alone.

I’ve seen you, in an instant, come together as a team when chaos ensues. And let’s be honest, chaos and NICU are interchangeable words. When the beeper goes off signaling emergency 24 weeker triplets are incoming. When three babies in the same pod are crashing at the same time. When the power goes off and you’re working from generators. In those all too often chaotic moments, you know that time is more critical in this unit than any other, and you don’t waste it. You bond together instantly as a team, methodically resolving the crisis until the normal NICU rhythm is restored.

Yes. I know you now. I’ll never be able to give in return what you have given to me. Thank you for answering my endless questions, even when I had asked them before. Thank you for your skill, you are pretty great at what you do. Thank you for fighting for my baby. Thank you for pretending like it was normal when I handed you a vial of just pumped breast milk. Thank you for agreeing to play Beatles lullabies in my baby’s crib when I was gone. Thank you for waking the doctor. Thank you for texting me pictures of my sweet miracle, even when it was against hospital policy. Thank you for crying with me on the day we were discharged.

Most of the world still doesn’t know what you do. They can’t understand how integral you are to the positive outcomes of these babies who started life so critically ill. But I do. I know you now. I will never forget you. In fact, our story can never be told without mentioning you. So the next time you wave your access card to enter the place that few eyes have seen, know that you are appreciated. I know you, and you are pretty amazing.

Your fan forever,

A NICU mom

1 comment:

  1. Glad you like your pediatrician! The letter is beautiful...So heartfelt! :)