Tag Archive | NICU

Two Years

Two years ago today, I was in a hospital bed on day 2 of hopefully many more on bedrest. I was getting frequent visits from my medical team, consisting of nurses, doctors, specialists, maternal fetal medicine, my OB, and two people from the nicu. My OB was hoping to keep Little Miss Minion and I healthy enough to make it to 32 weeks. The maternal fetal medicine specialist (high risk doctor) gave us two weeks in a best case scenario, which would have put us at 30 weeks. I don’t remember who the nicu people were or what their positions in the unit were, but I remember the feeling of panic as they explained all the things they could do if Little Miss Minion had to come early. I remember words like resuscitation, breathing tube, ventilator, developmental delay, and prognosis. I remember thinking that there were an awful lot of people coming in and out of the room during the time the nicu people were with us. 
When Mr Minion went back to our house to grab more clothes and things, since we weren’t expecting me to be admitted the day before, I remember starting to have trouble reading my book. The words weren’t making sense. I read the same paragraph over and over before finally giving up. I sat in my bed, trying to ignore the uncomfortable straps of the monitoring belt wrapped around my stomach. I watched the numbers on my blood pressure readings slowly climb, trying to will them back down. 150/90, 175/95…my prepregnancy readings were usually around 110/70 or lower. One of the nurses came in to check on me and moved the monitor screen to face away from me. With nothing else to look at, I watched the line of the fetal monitoring contraception move. Every jump indicated that Little Miss Minion was doing well, moving around. After a while, the line seemed to be flattening out. I called the nurse, they did a bunch of stuff to try and get Little Miss Minion moving, and nothing worked. They called in an ultrasound team who did a biophysical profile on her. It’s a half hour ultrasound where they count how many times the baby moves and a couple other things. She didn’t move. I watched her heart beat, the only thing that moved on the screen. 

Soon after that, I suspect an urgent  conference of my medical team commenced and a few minutes later, I was on the phone with Mr Minion, who had gotten to the house and wanted to know if I had thought of anything else I wanted. The doctor came in, so I got off the phone. I remember him telling me that my blood pressure wasn’t responding to the magnesium anymore and that Little Miss Minion needed out. Tonight. As soon as they could prep me.
I called Mr Minion and told him. As I hung up, swarms of people poured into the room to get me ready. I continued to call and text people that they were prepping me for surgery and that the baby was coming. And the rest is history. 
Today, I watched my two year old daughter play with bubbles. She ran up and down the hall of our house, played in her sandbox, and drew on an easel with markers. Two years ago, I watched a blue screen descend in front of my face as a team of doctors and nurses saved my life and saved my daughter’s life. I watched as someone held out a tiny, tiny, tiny baby, her head engulfed in a newborn hat that was almost as big as she was, her skin purple and transparent. Everything I had expected was imploding before my eyes. 
Two years ago, our NICU rollercoaster ride began. It started with a stomach churning drop as our one pound, fourteen ounce preemie was brought into the world twelve weeks early. There was another drop over a cliff as she fought off gbs, sepsis, and meningitis. Things smoothed out as we turned the corner of what would be our halfway point. We shot down another towering drop as we found out about her brain damage and hydrocephalus. The subsequent surgery and recovery were bumpy. But then, we could see the exit. Eighty four days after starting this ride, we got off and started the rest of our lives. There are still bumps, potholes, rainy days, and times when we trip and fall. But the important thing is that we get up, dust ourselves off, and KEEP GOING. 
Happy birthday to my daughter, Little Miss Minion. I’m so happy I get to see you grow up. 

May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month!

As frequent readers of this blog will know, my daughter, Little Miss Minion, was born early because I developed severe early onset Preeclampsia. This month is Preeclampsia awareness month, so I will be sharing information about this very important medical condition and how it has affected me and my family. 

Fact: Preeclampsia occurs in 2-8% of all pregnancies.

Fact: preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders are on of the leading causes of maternal death worldwide. 

And the results are in….

We got the official report back from the NICU follow up developmental clinic. I was pretty optimistic about it when all I had were the preliminary numbers. I read it as soon as it came in the mail and it was even better than I thought. 

Here’s the deal: they do bunch of skills tests with Little Miss Minion and they score her on how well she does. It’s pretty much three hours of playing with her with various toys and equipment. Luckily, she’s a pretty easy going kid, so it usually goes pretty smoothly. 

The stats:

At the time of the evaluation, she was 22 months chronological, 19 months adjusted for prematurity. Since she was born three months early, we subtract those three months from her chronological age to give her time to catch up. So for these tests, we are “expecting” her to score closer to 19 months than to 22 months. 
The scores: 

Receptive communication: this is how well she understands things that other people say. Ex: we ask her to bring us something or to point to a particular object. She scored at 18 months, which falls into the “average” range. 

Expressive communication: this is how well she communicates with others. Ex: pointing to things that she wants, asking for food, toys, etc. she scored at 18 months (average) again. 

Gross motor: how well she moves the large muscles in her body. Ex: running, jumping, etc. She scored 18 months here as well, so average again. 

Fine motor: how well she moves the small muscles in her body. Ex: coloring, picking things up with fingers. She scored at 20 months here, which is still considered average.  

Cognitive: how well she interacts with her environment. Ex: figuring out how to find hidden objects, placing puzzle pieces correctly, etc. She scored at 21 months here, which is considered high. 

All in all, she scored at the Average category. That means that she is performing at the same level as other kids born on her due date. This is huge. The last part of the visit is a meeting with one of the neonatologists from the NICU where they discuss the general results. The doctor had to double check his papers because of her nicu chart. Little Miss Minion has hydrocephalus, which usually impacts some aspect of development, and she also has brain damage from the infection. So he was shocked that she was doing so well. His notes include this surprise as he states that her progresss has been very reassuring, given her history of sepsis, hydro, meningitis, periventricular leukomalacia, and four brain surgeries. 
The upshot of all of this is that she is well on her way to catching up!

NICU Development Clinic

Yesterday was Little Miss Minion’s third NICU clinic. This is the big appointment where she is evaluated by physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, a neonatologist, and a NICU nurse. We don’t have her official write up yet, but I have the rough numbers. She did really well!

For those who are unfamiliar, her age is measured by two numbers. One is her chronological age-this is how old she is based on her birthday. The other is her adjusted age-this is how old she is based on her due date. So, by her birthday, she is 22 months old. By her adjusted age, she is only 19 months old. This doesn’t really seem like much, but in terms of early development, it is a big deal. 

Her speech was scored at eighteen months, which is a HUGE improvement. This score technically means that she is no longer considered delayed in speech, which is amazing since she’s only had about a month of speech therapy. They gave us some tips on how to encourage her to talk, but said that she is so close to really talking.

Her cognition was scored right at her chronological age, which is also fantastic. This means that she is scoring three months ahead of her adjusted age, which means that she is pretty much caught up for now in that area. With her early birth, the hydrocephalus, and the brain damage she incurred as a result of either the meningitis or the initial pressures of the hydro, this is really a best case scenario. The doctor told me he had to double check her chart to make sure she was the right kid. 

She’s pretty much on track with her adjusted ago with regard to her fine and gross motor skills. They looked at how she walks, how she holds things, whether she can stack blocks, how she picks things up. 

All in all, I think her average score was twenty or twenty one months, which is great, great news. I’ll post more details once we get the official results in a few weeks. But for now, yay for LMM!

NICU Support

The formal orientation for the nicu parent group was today. We learned more about what the group does, what our roles can be, and talked about how to be an effective parent advocate. I think I am going to focus on the dinners, bedside visits, and seeing the moms in antepartum. 

When we were in the NICU with Little Miss Minion, we looked forward to the bimonthly dinners that were hosted by the group. It was a good chance to get to talk to other parents, meet graduate parents, see the light at the end of the tunnel, and get free food (hey, eating two or three meals a day in the hospital isn’t cheap). We learned a ton of helpful info at the dinners, such as picking primary nurses, how to blacklist a nurse, the little perks of the parent lounge (stocked fridge with juice, milk, jello, and other snacks), and we got a little break from worry. 
Bedside visits are another facet to the group. On a purely utilitarian level, bedside visits are the best way to distribute materials like flyers, welcome bags, treats, etc to each child’s parents. On a support level, it’s a great way to interface with the parents and let them know that we are there for them. Their child has a team of people, but the parents often get overlooked, understandably so. We can serve as a backup for the parents, to be cheerleaders for them, to make sure they are handling things ok, to help get resources if they need extra help. 
Antepartum visits are the last area that I want to focus on. I was on bedrest for three days in April (I was about 25 weeks) and then for two days right before she was born. Being able to talk to someone who had lived through it and could help navigate the process would have been invaluable. Plus, I was bored out of my mind in April, and talking to anyone would have been a nice break in the monotony. I think talking to the immediately post partum moms would be something I would also like to do. I was so out of it in the days after her birth, it would have been nice to have someone to talk me out of the shock. 
I’m excited to see what this new opportunity holds. 

Back to the NICU

Last night was the first part of orientation for the NICU parent support group. This is group of people who have had children in the NICU. They host dinners twice a month for current nicu families, visit parents on the antpartum wing, visit families in their nicu rooms, and generally try to make the nicu stay a little  better. They do fundraisers, which I have helped with, that allow them to do things like bring a dad to the nicu from overseas before his baby passed away.
Yesterday was the informal informational meeting. There were seven of us, plus the leaders. We talked about what the group does and then there was the “tell your birth story” part. Normally, this is the part where I kind of back away. It’s hard when your story is so far from the ideal and the other stories are what you wanted yours to be. This time, instead of cringing when someone complained about how fat they got and how they were so upset that they had to wait five minutes to hold their baby, I found myself nodding along as someone mentioned the to do list they had written out in the morning and found themselves being admitted to labor and delivery at 34 weeks when their water broke early. We laughed at the crazy stuff we said or did while we were on magnesium. We grinned when we remembered how the nurses called our babies  feisty or cranky or angry because it meant that they were fighting. There were many overlapping similarities, which is something I have not experienced when telling my story. 

After that, we were told that any of us who wanted to could take a walk through the nicu. None of us had been back through the doors since we had been discharged. The atmosphere of camaraderie shifted as we neared the doors. Everyone seemed to pull back inside themselves. We were buzzed in and I stepped into the nicu for the first time since August 3, 2015. Everything was the same. We scrubbed up at the same sinks. We walked down the hall, each of us pausing for a moment as we passed the various wings that our babies began their lives in. I got a glimpse of our first room, at the end of one of the long wings. We walked through the parent lounge, then entered the second half  of the nicu. I stood in front of the door to the room where we learned about hydrocephalus, the room where Little Miss Minion took her first bottle, the room we finally got to leave and bring her with us. 
I hope that I am able to help someone on their NICU journey.