Living with a Preemie – Part 5
The nurse took us into a patient only elevator and we reached the NICU floor. Security is much tighter up here as you can not enter or exit any doors without being questioned through an intercom or swiping a card. Sue and I were both very excited to see Luke again. We went through the main NICU entrance and down a long hall. There were doorways off of the hall and each led to a little wing of babies in the intensive care. Nurses were busily checking monitors, changing babies and filling out paper work. Anyone we came in contact with was extremely nice and willing to accommodate at a moments notice. We finally reached the wing where Luke was located. Before we can progress we were instructed to wash our hands and sanitize…this is something everyone that enters the NICU must do before going into the wings. We finished and moved right to Luke’s incubator. As we approached a doctor was finishing up a procedure where they carefully insert small tubes into the baby’s belly button. We learned that they do this to continue feeding the baby but seeing it does not make it any less scary. Luke laid there with a number of sensors on his chest, a larger tube and mask over his face and those smaller tubes coming out of his belly button. We spent the next few minutes getting explanations of what they were doing to Luke and what we can expect over the next couple days.
We stayed a little longer and just admired how tiny Luke was and how he was being taken care of. While we watched Luke would occasionally shoot a leg out or close and open his hand. His limbs now had the freedom to go where they wanted without the restriction of Sue’s belly. His fingers and toes were so tiny. Sue was exhausted so we decided to go to her room. The nurse led us through another group of doors and into the ‘mommy & baby’ wing. I opted to stay the next few days with Sue. Nurses frequently came in to continue taking her temperature, check blood pressure and look at the incision. Everything was looking great and as we have learned to expect the nurses were extremely nice.
The next day Sue was very tired so I went into the NICU to look at Luke. I sat down in a very comfortable rocking chair and just stared at him as he lay there breathing. A nurse came over and asked if I would like to assist in his care which includes taking his temperature and changing his diaper. For all three of my boys I was the first to change their diaper. I guess that is not such a magnificent thing for most people but it was a big deal for me. When our first was born I had a fear of changing the messy diaper. I figured that I’d pull the diaper back, see poop and start to dry heave or just throw up. In past experiences with poop and boogers(not my own), while I didn’t actually throw up, I would definitely be sickened. I remember one instance where I had to change my brother when I was younger and I actually donned an apron, dishwashing gloves, tongs, goggles and a surgical mask. And even then I was sickened by just looking into the diaper. When the time came for our first to be changed for the first time I seemed to go on autopilot and it came natural. As the kids get older the diapers are definitely more disturbing and can induce a dry heave now and then but the duty of the parent overrides everything. So it is great that I have progressed.
Every couple hours, when Sue was feeling up for it, we would go for a trip from her room to the NICU to see Luke. Each time we went we were encouraged by comments of the nurses and doctors. Luke was progressing well. He started to digest his feedings, needed less help with remembering to breathe and just looked like he was getting the hang of things. After a few days Sue was discharged and we headed home. We now travel down to the hospital two or three times a week, sometimes staying at a hotel for a little extended stay.
About 4 weeks has passed and we are in a position to possibly move Luke to a hospital closer to our area. He has been gaining weight (at the time of this writing 3 lbs. 4oz.) and he is doing everything but eating on his own. When he is moved to a closer hospital his only jobs will be to learn how to eat from a bottle and grow. He will probably have another 3 or 4 weeks in the hospital before he can come home. Each hospital has their own criteria for when a baby is ready to go home including a target weight, breathing infractions, feeding proficiency and others. We were truly blessed by the fact that Luke and Sue did not have any major complications or setbacks. We are also blessed with all the family, friends, doctors, nurses and strangers that have kept us in their thoughts, prayers and helped through the whole situation. We are extremely grateful.