When life gives you lemons…

Eliana’s Birth Story: Part II Life in the NICU

My friend April would probably ask for a knife, cut the lemon in half and start licking or sucking it. Especially if it was a Meyer’s lemon because those are her favorite. However, as the saying goes

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”

I don’t think anyone gets pregnant and then anticipates there to be complications after delivering. Especially when you happened to be blessed with the easiest pregnancy ever. So when the nurse decided to tell us that Eliana was having difficulties breathing and that she wasn’t getting enough oxygen into her lungs we weren’t really prepared to have them wheel her away to the NICU. Most definitely not after barely meeting her and spending all of 3 hours with her.

But oddly enough as much as I was scared and worried about how bad her breathing “difficulties” really were I had peace. They took her at about 10:30pm to run tests and x-ray her chest. We were able to see her around midnight. I think this is where it finally hit me. We walked into the NICU and saw dozens of babies all preemies and all roughly under 2 lbs. Then we turn the corner and see our daughter weighing in at 9 lbs 2 oz. If I thought she looked big before she officially looked ginormous. Just across from her were a set of twins whose combined weight was under 3 lbs. All I could think was MY DAUGHTER doesn’t belong here. She is a full term, hefty and healthy baby. But then we see her in the little NICU bed surrounded by an air tent and hooked up to monitors and an iv and with a heating lamp over her and we both sort of lost it.

As a new mother I wanted to keep my cool and not lose it in front of dozens of other parents whose children were literally fighting for their lives. However Hector, as a first time Dad who felt it was his right to protect his daughter and make sure she was safe and secure, just started weeping. Then my heart broke. We couldn’t touch her or hold her or do anything to let her know we were there and that she was safe and that all would be okay. I tried to be the super positive one telling Hector that this was a minor hiccup and that everything would be fine (not really knowing whether or not it would be). At this point I just had to trust in God. I mean He was the one who brought her into this world and if I was going to get peace and understanding from anyone it would be Him.

It was at this point that I realized how hard it must be to lose a child. Eliana was no where near dying, but obviously when you don’t know what’s going on you think the worst and then it just seems to eat away at your brain. I literally couldn’t fathom what I would do if I lost her. I mean we only knew her for a few hours, but seriously all the time and effort it takes to create a child is no simple task. I couldn’t help but feel that the last 10 months would all be in vain if they couldn’t make her better.

At midnight that night they started her on antibiotics just “in case” she had an infection. The x-ray showed cloudy fluid filled lungs and they had anticipated pneumonia. But no one really knew so besides the antibiotics all we could do is wait. We left her in the NICU and headed back to my room to get some sleep. Or shall I say try and get some sleep.

The next morning was better and worse. We obviously didn’t call our family at midnight to tell them she had been admitted, so we had to let everyone know they couldn’t come and visit. The NICU rule was one visitor at a time with one parent at all times. This doesn’t really make for an easy visit when you have dozens of family and friends who want to see her. Especially when your not allowed to hold her or touch her. And of course your family hears NICU and they automatically freak out and want to be there immediately. It was not how I anticipated her first few days. She spent the remainder of Sunday in the air tent and was hooked up to an iv. I was pumping in order to be able to breastfeed her once she was off the air tent. At 10pm that night we went back to the NICU and her tent was gone. The Dr. felt she was improving greatly and even invited me back at 11pm to feed her. It was a huge blessing to be able to hold her and touch her and especially feed her. And boy was she hungry : )

The following day we had a minor setback when they wanted to put in a PIC line through her umbilical cord. If she was going to be on antibiotics for the week they thought it was best to put in a central line instead of a local iv because those close easily in infants and have to continuously be re-done which means tons of poking. When they did this they apparently went to far and tickled her heart twice which made her heart skyrocket to 250bpm. One of these episodes happened when Hector was there visiting her and he was asked to leave as a slew of doctors try to lower her heart rate. Not Cool. He came back to the room freaking out because now they thought she had a heart problem. Even though later they determined it was just because of the central line. Grrrr. I know Dr.’s aren’t perfect and everyone makes mistakes, but if there is one complaint I have about the UCSD NICU its the inconsistency of medical reporting/opinions from Dr’s on different shifts. SOOOO FRUSTRATING.

Another example of this frustration was them giving us false hope. The nurse decided to tell us on Tuesday that she was doing so well and had such a comeback that they thought we might be able to take her home on Wednesday afternoon. We both almost peed our pants. Home before Thanksgiving!!! Even though they told us on Sunday that under NO circumstances would she be leaving before the following Sunday. She continued to do well throughout Tuesday and when we came back Wednesday morning to listen to the Dr’s reports they decided to deny her discharge. We were pissed.

Not to mention they were so certain of her early discharge that they removed her central line and started going through discharge paperwork with us. When they told us no we asked why and they said she had 2 episodes of desat’s Tuesday night. A desat is where her oxygen saturation falls below a certain level. (sorry if my medical terms or spelling are totally incorrect). So they now were going to keep her until Sunday afternoon NO MATTER WHAT. I just rolled my eyes and gave the Dr. a mean look. We were both upset. She was completely healthy and doing just fine. She had no reason to be there and we felt that if they weren’t 100% sure about discharging her early then they shouldn’t have told us and on top of that they shouldn’t have removed her central line because Hector had to hold her for 45 minutes why they poked her over a half dozen times trying to get another port in for her meds. Which SHOULDN’T have been needed if they would’ve kept her central line in, but they DIDN’T because they felt that strongly about her going home. UGHHHH!!!!!!

Anyhow we eventually got over it and decided to just deal with the situation. However each day that went by we got more and more pissed that she was still in the NICU. She continued to have desats the remainder of her stay, but apparently they were just incorrect readings from the monitor. Which makes us think that those 2 random ones on Tuesday night were also just incorrect readings from the monitor because she never actually had a legitimate desat ever again. GRRRRRR

Well on Friday we started to get anxious and antsy and just plain pissed that we were being told different things from different Dr.’s and after we started analyzing everything that they were telling us we realized that they had miscalculated the doses of her meds. From day 1 they said she needed 7 days of med treatment. She got her first round on midnight Saturday night which meant that her last round would be administered Friday at midnight NOT Saturday at midnight. When we discussed this with the Dr.’s Friday they just look dumbfounded and she counted 7 nights of treatment in front of me ending Saturday at midnight. I then proceeded to count on my fingers in front of her Saturday Midnight 1, Sunday Midnight 2, Monday Midnight 3, Tuesday Midnight 4, Wednesday Midnight 5, Thursday Midnight 6 and Friday Midnight 7. She proceeded to say they would double check that with her charts. UGHHHH Hector and I were both at our wits end and we just wanted her home.

Needless to say she came home Saturday at 10am! Haha we won. It may seem that we fought and bickered over 1 day which doesn’t seem like a lot, but that was one day less we had to travel back and forth 5x in a day to see her and feed her. And one day less that a healthy baby had to pay $$ to be in a NICU where she didn’t belong.

Anyhow that was a super long story and sadly it reflects poorly on our experience with the NICU. However I must say that we LOVED every single nurse who took care of Eliana during her time in the NICU. They were utterly fantastic and the 4th floor NICU was like a Ritz Carlton. We had our own private little room and I know she received the best care ever. My only complaint is that the Dr’s would get their acts together and discuss things in a clear and concise matter. Because regardless of their individual opinions they all need to implement the same plan of care and not give the parents the run around.

So even though her first week was spent in the hospital she came home a healthy and happy baby. Hector and I don’t believe she ever needed to be in the NICU, but the situation is what it is. We now know as parents that we need to speak up and make a stink about things if we don’t like whats going on or we are even the slightest bit confused about the situation. You live and you learn ๐Ÿ™‚

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