November 25, 2008

I'm Grateful For....

Life and life changing experiences. It's taken me awhile to get to the point where I am able to post this, but the events of the past few months have reminded me of how precious...and tenuous life is. I am grateful that Cameron is going to be okay. I am saddened that other babies are not so fortunate.


The day before Cameron was released from the NICU, I saw a baby die. It happened quickly, over the course of an hour, and it was awful... and strangely beautiful at the same time.

Cameron was in the quarantine room in the back of the NICU. On the other side of the sliding glass doors was a 26 weeker who, up until that day, had done great. She was six weeks old when she developed a bacterial infection in her intestine, causing it to perforate.

I was feeding Cameron around 11am when the alarms on the baby's incubator started going off. Initially, I didn't think anything of it, as the alarms go off on all the babies' beds all of the time. I knew that something was up, however, when the number of doctors and nurses in the room started to rapidly multiply. The doctors were amazingly calm, yet they were moving fast. The urgency on their faces was palpable.

As the minutes ticked by, it became increasingly apparent that the baby was very sick. This was confirmed when the attending physician asked the charge nurse to call the baby's parents. Normally, I don't pass up an opportunity to eavesdrop, but I wanted nothing more at that moment than to run away. I was watching some one's worst nightmare unfold, and I felt helpless, guilty, and heartsick all at the same time. Although I desperately wanted to leave the NICU, I couldn't. The doorway was blocked by 20 people. When I realized that I wasn't going to get out, I closed the doors to Cameron's room, closed my eyes and prayed for the doctors, the nurses, the parents, and most of all, for the sweet baby who was fighting for her life.

Although the door to Cameron's room was shut, it did little to muffle the sound of what was taking place five feet away. Within a short period of time, the baby's condition deteriorated to the point where doctors were forced to shift their goal from resuscitation to keeping the baby alive until her parents arrived at the hospital.

In the very long and painful minutes that followed, I watched a group of wonderful doctors and nurses take turns cradling the dying baby. I was touched by the tenderness with which they cared for this precious little girl. The room that was a few minutes earlier a flurry of activity, was now peaceful and quiet.

It all became too much. I seized upon the opportunity of a cleared room and ran out into the hallway, where I cried for a half hour. When I returned, the incubator was gone and one of the nurses was gently folding the baby's sleepers, blankets, and other personal effects and placing them into a clear plastic bag. I learned later that the baby's parents didn't make it to the hospital in time.

I didn't know what to do; there was nothing that I could do, other than give the nurse a hug and tell her that she did a good job. Afterward, I returned to Cameron's room, where I held him a little longer and a little tighter than I did before.

34 comments

Likes Chocolate said...

Ok, there is nothing like a good cry first thing in the morning. Life is precious!!! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I am so sorry for those parents. We lost our 4-week-old, 30-weeker nephew to that same thing in May and it was so horrible. It happens so fast, you can't believe it. He left his grieving parents and twin brother. Surviving twin is doing great, thank God. liz

Rachel said...

I experienced this same thing when Mr. Farty was in the NICU. The baby in the next cubicle took a rapid turn for the worse, and they didn't even waste time to get him to the operating room, they tried surgery right there. The nurse warned me that I had to either leave or be 'trapped' for the next several hours. I didn't want to leave my son, but listening to everything going on only a few feet away and separated only by a curtain was agonizing. I just held my baby and rocked him, sobbing the entire time. There is nothing like it, and like the baby in your story, the parents didn't make it in time.
I stayed at the NICU all night that night, I was too dazed and upset to even think about leaving.
My heart goes out to all the families that are spending time in hospitals, NICU's, etc over the holidays, and hope for happy outcomes for everyone.

The Mommy said...

I have two sisters-in-law who are NICU nurses. I cannot imagine what they go through on a daily basis. Watching anyone die is awful. Watching a baby die? Indescribable. Here's a shout-out to all those who do what I never, ever could. And an extra prayer for all babies and their families who are fighting for their very lives. God Bless them all.

WriterGrrl said...

I hated the NICU. I remember the sheer terror that hit me every morning when we got there, the fear that we'd arrive to find that D. was.... gone.

Helen said...

I am so glad I never had to witness something like that in the 2 weeks my boys were in the NICU. I'm sorry you had to!

We all have so much to be thankful for!

Mindy said...

Thanks for sharing, Jana. What incredible people are those nurses and doctors who are willing to put themselves in the line of fire to help these babies...and their families. It is a very thin line sometimes..between "here and there"...we're so glad that Cameron is progressing and doing well. I remember the days when you weren't sure the "family thing" would ever happen! Happy Thanksgiving...we have plenty to be thankful for... :)

Cindy said...

Oh wow Jana. What an experience. I remember being so afraid that Jenna would die when they thought she had NEC--your story makes it all too real. Thankfully she is a healthy and sometimes sassy 8 year old now!

It also touched me to read about how loving and tender the nurses and doctors were with the baby. I think NICU nurses are some of the most wonderful people in the world.

Malea said...

You are an incredible person. Your posts on life is such a great service, whether they be funny or sad. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for sharing your perspective.

Jen said...

Sometimes those of us with happy, healthy babies need to read stories such as that to remind us how truly BLESSED we are to not know those feelings!! I am feeling incredibly sad (and at the same time relieved...and a little guilty for that) after reading that. This year I am more THANKFUL than ever, that in the past year I finally got pregnant, had a wonderful pregnancy and delivery, and brought home a perfect little girl only 2 days after she was born. AND she's been sleeping through the night since 8 weeks...that's just the icing on the cake! :) Thanks for sharing that difficult story, Jana!

Janee said...

You've made me cry. I can't even imagine losing a baby like that. I am so glad that Cameron is doing well and that he is home. I've been meaning to call you the last few days. I also have a gift I've been meaning to mail for several weeks now. I'll get to both this week I hope.

Tanna'sTriplets said...

We had a long stay in the NICU and I am still feeling the effects of it. We had an easy stay compaired to others. I remeber one day coming in and a baby that had been in a bed close to us was gone. I remeber thinking good for that baby getting to go home. But later I found out he had passed away.
Still to this day it is tough thinking of our NICU days.
I pray that you all have a great Thanksgiving!!

Anonymous said...

I have been with a few friends in this situation and it is heart wrenching...But it does make us very thankful for those wonderful doctors that cradle our little ones when we cant, adn thankful for a wonderful Heavenly Father that cradles them until we can get back to them. I am so glad that your little Cameron is getting stronger! and my heart is with all those who are or have lost those tiny angels...

Sants said...

A similar thing happened to me when one of mine was in the NICU. It still baffles me why mine, who was the sickest in the NICU (bed number one) made it and others didn't.

Thanks for the good cry and reminder.

Shaunte Wadley said...

What a great post.
I am off to hug my rotten and rambuncious, but very healthy kids...;)

Lisa said...

Jana, Thank you for the reminder of life being precious. It is just what I needed today. Every moment we have on this earth with our children is a gift. Have a great Thanksgiving.

Hilary said...

And just this morning I was ready to leave my toddler on the curb with the trash.

Thanks for the perspective (and the cry).

Bebe said...

Your post made me cry. I had triplets, one of which spent 16 weeks in the NICU. There is nothing better than visiting your sweet baby and seeing that he is growing stronger. But there is nothing worse than arriving to bad news, in any form. Two of my little guys cruised through with only minor bumps. The third buddy really struggled. I thank God for my little boys and for their health. All are doing great.

cathy said...

Wow. What an incredibly powerful story. Off to give my kids a hug and a kiss...

Anonymous said...

I was a baby snuggler at the NICU. Enough said.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reminding me how precious our children are and how I don't know what I would do without my two very rambunkious girls. Thanks for making cry at work

The Stephens said...

Wow, speechless.

brossettelewis said...

We never thankfully had that experience while in NICU. I can't imagine. Thanks for reminding me that I am blessed with both of my NICU babies...ya start to think it is a probationary time and that the all graduate. :(

Hope said...

During the 7 weeks my son was in the NICU, I never saw a baby die, and I am so grateful for that. I saw a Father sob as he watched his little baby girl get wheeled off into surgery-after much deliberation from 9 doctors. His wife had a C Section and wasn't at the Childrens Hospital yet, she was 15 minutes away at another hospital. I saw him reading a book to her later that night, which meant-she was going to be okay.
When a baby passes away, it makes you hold your baby so much tighter. Even when I see an episode on one of those Hospital dramas on T.V. When the story line is a baby, in the NICU, I turn the T.V. off and go to my now 7 year old-who had a 45% chance to live. I hug and kiss him-because he is asleep in his bed-and can't fight me hugging and kissing him.

Becca said...

Wow--lots of NICU veterans here. Your post this morning made me pick up my 10 week old baby, who is still on heart and apnea monitors here at home, and just say a little prayer for families whose hearts are broken this thanksgiving. Thank you for sharing--you've give a lot of people something to think about and be grateful for.

Aunt MeMe/Mindy said...

My triplet Niece and two nephews were also 26 weekers. My niece Rowan and Nephew Joey both fought very hard with the infections too. At one point, the Dr who is also part angel, told my sister that there was nothing else he could do for Rowan. He hand bagged her for 4 hours to keep her alive. Thru nothing short of a miracle, she made it! The doctors and nurses are living breathing angels! They really are.

Welcome home Cameron! We are all so happy you are home!

Kelli (Finton's Mom) said...

Thanks for making me cry today! My first day back at work since Finton was born and I was doing good until now! Happy Thanksgiving!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

This was a moving post (really, I'm not being sarcastic today) and made me feel so awestruck about the fragility of life. There's so much we don't know about it, but the whole life/death balance is deep and meaningful. I loved your description about the intensities of both the fear and the peace.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

James and Monica said...

Crying at the moment. :'( I'm grateful for eternal familie!!

Amy Prather said...

NICU mommies who keep paces with your blog are probably going to be emotionally connected to you now... I was a NICU mommy too, sobbing each time I went to visit because you just never knew but always hoped for the best. I'm glad both our children had an ending we can hold for a bit longer. Thankfully that precious baby is back with the one who loves us most, what a righteous spirit....

Ethington Family said...

It has been a while since I've been able to sit and read your blog. I have been catching up tonight though. This touched me so much. I am so sorry you had to witness that, but at the same time and grateful that you didn't experience it first hand. What a wonderful blessing that your sweet baby is going to be ok. My heart goes out to the couple who lost their little girl. I hope they can find comfort. I want you to know I enjoy your blog always, and am happy to hear you are all doing well.
mary

Jana said...

Wow
I didn't realize how many NICU moms were out there. It sounds like many of you have had similar experiences. The NICU is an amazing and incredibly sacred place. I am reminded of that every time I go there.

Anonymous said...

My first baby, a girl died in CHOP's cardiac ICU a decade ago. I still remember another Mother sitting like you cluthching her baby and "stuck" watching the lifesaving measures performed on my daughter. I remember to this day her crying and praying for my daughter and our family and somehow it brought me comfort and still does.

Megan W said...

I had 31 weekers. We also had one who contracted NEC, and we got that awful middle-of-the-night call. Thankfully, God allowed us to keep our baby boy here on earth, and he is alive and healthy today. But that first year I don't think a day went by that I didn't remember what could have been. The NICU experience really changes you as a mom, and makes you so thankful for the little ones who have blessed you.

I have sobbed over this story for about an hour now. I needed this reminder. Thanks.