Tag Archive | nicu grad

Little Miss Minion: Volume 5

Yesterday was Little Miss Minion’s fifth birthday! I can’t believe it has already been five whole years since she was born.

Since we couldn’t have a regular party like we normally would have, the plan was to have a Yes Day and try to meet up with people on Zoom to sing happy birthday. Mr Minion took the day off from work and went out to get donuts for breakfast. After that, she got herself dressed in her Snow White dress and watched tv. She got bored of Snow White after a while and decided to be a pirate princess instead. About an hour later, it was time for Snow White again. Around noon, we had a special visitor—Nurse J from the NICU!

Little Miss Minion had requested a steak dinner, so we happily obliged and Mr Minion grilled some of the best steaks I’ve ever had. After dinner, we fired up the computer and Zoomed with friends and family to wish her a happy birthday and sing before she blew out her candles.

After cake and such a busy day, she was full of energy (and sugar), so we went for a walk in full Snow White regalia, plus a new Frozen baseball hat. I’m sure the neighborhood wasn’t expecting a Royal parade. 🙂

Today was a rude awakening, as Princess Minion realized that it was no longer her birthday and she had to do her normal daily things, like pick up after herself and not have cake for lunch. She’s so deprived.

Spring is here!

So today is the first day of spring…and it is cloudy and raining. But the high is supposed to be decent, so I have opened the windows a little to get some fresh air in here. Little Miss Minion and I prepped the seeds for sprouting the other day. We are hoping to do two plantings-a cool weather one and then a summer one. Since I am home now, hopefully I will be able to keep up on maintaining the plants.

First planting: dill, parsley, cucumber, thyme, lavender, and broccoli. I plan to make pickles out of the cucumber. They are currently sitting in damp paper towels, taped to the window of our office so they can sprout.

Summer planting: we are planning on doing cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, onions, zucchini, green beans and/or peas, lettuce, and some peppers (probably a combo of sweet mini peppers and some spicy ones for fajitas).

Mr Minion tilled up both of our gardening areas-we have a raised bed already, and we pulled up some grass in another area of the backyard to plant more things. This area will be shaded once the leaves come back, where the raised bed is in direct sunlight all day. I think we will move the tomatoes back to the raised bed this season. They didn’t do well in the small section of the shaded area we put them in last time.

As I mentioned above, I am going to try my hand at canning this year. I’m hoping for pickles, and I will probably attempt to do any extra green beans/peas, and maybe make some salsa if we have enough tomatoes and peppers. I’m terrified of giving us all botulism though, so I need to read up on how to not kill us all.

Other than that, not much going on over here. We pretty much stay in the house anyway, since it has been so gross out recently. Mr Minion refilled the sand in the sandbox for the kiddo, and she was very excited about that. We made chocolate cupcakes yesterday, and I am going to attempt making a spring flower hat with her today. I am not crafty at all, but I think this is doable. I will update if it turns out well, and if it doesn’t…this never happened. 😉

Wish us luck!

The Obligatory Coronavirus Post

I have been following this virus since about the third week in January and it looks like it has taken until now for the US government to take it seriously. So…7 weeks. I have a lot of opinions and feeling about this, but I want to focus on what we can all do to help. Since I spent much of Little Miss Minion’s first year of life in a constant state of bleaching everything we owned, I have some relevant experience. RSV isolation and introversion have prepared me for just this situation 😉

As the parent of a former 28 weeker, I take cold and flu season extremely seriously, even though my kiddo has hopefully outgrown her preemie lungs and the problems that go with them, as well as developed a decent immune system. Last time she got sick, she had a runny nose for about 12 hours and then gave it to me, where it lasted six weeks and turned into a double ear infection, a sinus infection, bronchitis, and borderline pneumonia mixed with infection-induced asthma.

I’m sure everyone has heard the non-stop refrain of “wash your hands,” “it’s just the flu,” and “it’s only killing old people.” Here are my two cents, as a NICU mom, as a preemie mom, and as a (hopeful) future nurse:

  1. WASH YOUR HANDS. For real. Viruses need us to take them to the cells they can infect. Take the common cold, for example. You could dunk your hands in a bucket full of rhinovirus and not get sick…UNLESS you brought the virus to your nose or mouth. Scrub your hands, and the detergents in the soap will disrupt the virus capsule and kill it. Hand sanitizer does the same thing to this virus–although not all viruses are killed by it. Norovirus, for example, is not killed by most sanitizer gels.
  2. Take it seriously. While 80% of cases are apparently not a big deal, that means that 20% result in symptoms serious enough to warrant hospitalization. We don’t have the space in our hospitals for that kind of volume. We don’t have the staffing, or the supplies…which brings me to the next point.
  3. Do your part to flatten the curve. The curve is basically the number of people who need medical attention at a given time. The lower that number is, the better shape we will all be in. Slow the spread of illness so that the numbers of severe cases don’t surge. 100 people knocking on your door over the course of a year is far better than all of those people showing up in one day.
  4. Don’t be a carrier. Limit your visiting with more vulnerable people (looking at you, nursing homes, retirement homes, people fighting chronic illness, people with newborns). You could be sick with this virus (or any other virus) and not know it, bringing it in and infecting others who may not be able to fight it off. I can’t tell you how many times I had to tell, explain, and argue with people about why it was so vital that Little Miss Minion not get sick that first year she was home with us. What you think are “allergies” on Monday, so you go visit an older relative, could turn into “just a runny nose” on Tuesday and a full blown cold on Wednesday–and could prove to be pneumonia or worse for your unsuspecting relative.
  5. Don’t let the anxiety rule you. Check in on the news once or twice a day and get on with your day…albeit with a little more soap and a little less face-touching than usual.

 

Wishing everyone health and lots of toilet paper…

 

Little Miss Fishy

In an effort to get Little Miss Minion (and me) some social interaction, we decided to sign her up for swimming class. She’s in the preschool group, where they mostly focus on getting the kids to feel comfortable in the water. Her group consists of her and two other kids. The other two are bigger than she is (what else is new?) and more experienced in the water. At one point, she decided to go sit on the stairs and watch, but I talked her into going back over to the group. Her teacher really helped-I think she realized LMM was nervous, not just being stubborn. About five minutes later, she was splashing and picking up diving rings (they were in the kids section, so the water ranged from zero inches deep at the beach ramp walk in to like two feet at the far end). They also did boogie boards, where the kids hold the board and kick while the teacher pulls them around. They practiced floating, which I was sure LMM was going to pass on, but she did it. They also practiced jumping into the water while holding the teacher’s hands. I didn’t think she’d do that either, but I was pleasantly surprised. I was fully expecting her to refuse to go in this time, since the pool is a new place for her and I was over in the parent area. Every time she did something, she’d look over at me and beam–the biggest smiles ever. It was adorable.

While I was getting her dried off and dressed for the ride back home, she asked me if we could come back tomorrow. I think she likes it.

Happy New Year!

On New Year’s Day last year, we started The Jar. I cut up some paper into little slips and found a pen. The Jar, the slips of paper, and the pen sat on the counter in our kitchen all year. Whenever we remembered to do it, we would write down something memorable that had happened and planned to read all the slips on New Year’s Eve. We went to bed last night at like 10, so we read them this morning. It was pretty cool to see all the things we wrote down throughout the year. Little Miss Minion even snuck one in without us knowing!

Highlights:

Getting cleared for another year from LMM’s neurosurgeon.

Going to a cool Halloween tour at a historical house near us.

I got promoted in the spring. And again in the fall.

Taking LMM to the Home Depot projects.

Planning our cruise to Alaska.

My A in Microbiology. And my A in Anatomy and Physiology I.

Date nights with Mr Minion.

Baking zucchini bread with zucchini from our garden.

Theon Greyjoy Memorial BBQ.

Putting Christmas lights on the house.

2019 was a pretty good year. I have high hopes for 2020.

Now I have to go get The Jar ready for a new year of memories.

Prematurity Awareness Day 2019

Wear your purple today in honor of Prematurity Awareness Day!

There are so many lasting effects of premature birth that it’s hard to list them all. Not only do you have the ones that make themselves known around birth (low birth weight, breathing assistance, etc), you have all the things that could happen in the NICU (blood transfusions, surgeries, infections, caffeine, TPN, PICC lines, specialists, etc). Then you can have all the things that happen after the NICU, like early intervention therapies, more specialists, more surgeries, developmental delays, etc. Even in the best hospitals with all the available treatment, sometimes that isn’t enough to save the baby. Some are simply too early, too small, or too sick.

The other unseen effect is what happens to the parents. Seeing your child hooked up to wires, unable to breathe on their own, fighting infections, needing surgery… these things take a toll. The rate of post partum depression is up to 70% in NICU moms, compared to just 16% in the general population (Graham’s Foundation study). PTSD is also a concern, with 53% of mothers and 35% of fathers developing it (Pediatrics Journal).

The final effect of prematurity is the What If syndrome, as I like to call it. It starts out with self-blame at the early arrival of the baby: what if I hadn’t had that cup of coffee each day? I know it was within the limits of caffeine, but what if I hadn’t? What if I had eaten more fruit and vegetables? What If syndrome then morphs into a trip through all the horrible things that can happen in the NICU: What If the baby catches a cold? What if the baby gets an infection? What if the baby has more desats and bradys? If the baby comes home, What If syndrome likes to go nuts: What If the baby stops breathing at night and we don’t know because there’s no monitors? What if someone comes over and they are sick and then the baby gets sick? What if the baby isn’t catching up to their milestones? What if they aren’t eating enough? What if we end up back in the hospital?

The final question that I’ve seen other Preemie moms deal with is: What If it happens again? The cause of many premature births isn’t known. Sure, I had preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome and those are probably listed somewhere as the cause of delivery. But how did I end up with that? Could I have done something to prevent it? No one knows. Aspirin looks to be a big help in delaying preeclampsia, but it doesn’t always work. The same goes for things like incompetent cervix, premature labor, early water breaking. No one knows why these things happen. There are some treatments to help, but nothing is guaranteed.

Prematurity can happen to anyone. I’m so glad that we had such a good outcome (even with our 3 months in the NICU and the hydrocephalus diagnosis and surgeries). There are many people who aren’t as lucky. And I’m glad that I’m working toward being able to care for those babies (and parents) who find themselves in the world of the NICU.

Little Miss Minion and the Return to the NICU

As you probably are aware of by now, I volunteer in the NICU as a member of the parent support group. There are several facets of what we do, such as fundraising for activities, visiting moms on hospital bedrest, and hosting events for parents. The part that I usually do is doing a unit visit. I walk through the unit and drop off welcome bags for newly admitted families and talk to parents who are in the unit about how they are coping. This week, I volunteered to cover the weekly dinner we host for the parents. We use a conference room just outside the unit and it’s a nice place to relax, have a good meal, and talk to other parents who are in the same boat. I don’t usually get to do these because of my class schedule, but someone was sick and no one else could cover it. I remember how much Mr Minion and I looked forward to these dinners and I couldn’t let it get cancelled.

The only catch was that I would have to bring Little Miss Minion with me. Mr Minion was working late. I packed up the iPad and some coloring books to keep her busy and we went to the NICU after I picked her up from daycare. Little Miss Minion was very well behaved and so excited to be “helping the babies” at the NICU.

Once we had all gotten plates and were settled, I introduced myself and gave the short story of our NICU journey. It’s a lot different telling a story that involves pediatric brain surgery when the kid in question is sitting next you playing on an iPad. People hear the words “brain surgery” and “brain damage” and they picture a very sick kid. When I introduced Little Miss Minion as the kid in my story, the parents were shocked. Some of them are going through rough journeys of their own and I hope seeing LMM gave them a little hope.

LMM stayed pretty quiet through the dinner and the talking. We all shared our stories and struggles, as well as some of the funny things that happen. I talked about the time I fell sleep while pumping-I put on an episode of Good Eats to keep myself awake during my 2AM pumping session and made it about five minutes in before falling asleep for about an hour–that story always breaks the tension and helps people relax.

I sometimes get that weird feeling that I’m *meant* to do something and I got that feeling before I accepted covering the dinner. As people started to open up and share, one of the dads told his story. His daughter was born at the same weight as LMM and has been there for over 200 days. Much like us, they had a severe infection that resulted in dramatic damage–LMM ended up with meningitis, sepsis, and hydrocephalus. His daughter ended up with a mystery lung ailment that damaged her lungs.

I ended up talking to this dad for about forty minutes after everyone else left. His daughter weighed the same amount at birth as LMM and was a week earlier. He was very affected by seeing another Preemie who survived some pretty dire stuff and couldn’t believe that she’s had five brain surgeries. I think he needed that spark of hope, of seeing the light in the tunnel for his own daughter. He showed me pictures of his daughter and I showed him similar pictures of LMM.

I think I’ll have to start volunteering to cover these dinners more often. It was nice to see the parents in a less tense environment (the bedside is sometimes an awkward place to try to talk about the stress of the NICU). I think LMM had fun too, even though she didn’t get to see the babies.