**As a forewarning, these next few chapters will be a little light on the humorous anecdotes but I’m hoping you’ll find them just as interesting as the previous stories! **
After the excitement and relief of hearing our tiny miracle’s first cries, Andrew and I were ecstatic to reach our bed in the Recovery room and bask in that ‘new parent’ glow. The two of us laughed, hugged and talked about how excited we were to go and meet our son once all three of us were settled into rooms.
One of the doctors came to check on me and everything looked perfect. Since I’d had such minimal time on the epidural , I was actually ready to get up and going only a half an hour after giving birth! I definitely feel for Mommies with stitches or C-sections, and appreciate how lucky we were that the delivery process, for us, was a relative breeze. However, Andrew maintains that with all of the complications and worry I had during the pregnancy, we deserved to have at least one thing go well! Especially considering what happened next…
Just after 4am, as we were talking about our perfect, amazing new baby, the NICU resident who’d spoken to us in Triage arrived. He had a strange look on his face and told us that he needed to speak to us…privately. I can’t even begin to describe how I felt in that moment. My hear literally skipped out of my chest and across the floor…I felt like I was going to be sick…no one starts off good news with this kind of an opening.
Andrew came to my side and held my hand as the doctor began his speech. Vaughan had been doing great just after birth, however; he had struggled a bit to catch his breath. This was just what they’d warned us about so nothing crazy here. To help him out they’d given him the drug ‘Surfactant’.
Now this would be the appropriate time to insert some fun facts about surfactant. It’s actually a substance that each of us has in our bodies naturally. It’s formed at around 36 weeks of gestation and coats the lungs. Essentially it makes them slippery, so that when you breath out your lungs don’t stick together. This makes the process of breathing a heck of a lot easier and involves much less energy. Preemies tend to have difficulties breathing because their lungs are still ‘sticky’; so you’ll see their chests heaving…and when they get tired they’ll ‘coast’ or skip breaths. Fortunately there is an injection of this wonderful substance that can be administered to pre-term babies, and in some cases eliminate the need for a ventilator all together!
Now for the scary part. The medication is administered in three doses. Vaughan got through the first two like a champ, however; the third dose wasn’t so kind.. His poor little body reacted like it was drowning. His heart rate slowed to less than 60 bpm (normal for a newborn is 120 – 160 bpm) and his oxygen saturation levels registered at 0% (normal being 98-100%), essentially indicating that he’d stopped breathing. At this point they considered him ‘crashed’ and began chest compressions, intubation and resuscitation efforts. According to the doctor this went on for some 15 minutes before his stats came up to appropriate levels and he came to see us in recovery.
Andrew and I both stared at the resident with silent tears running down our faces. How could we have been celebrating when our baby was fighting for his life in the next room…and we never even knew! The poor resident was extremely flustered and since Andrew and I weren’t giving him any verbal reaction he kept talking. He told us that the reaction to the medication was so rare that there aren’t many papers on it. He told us how ‘lucky’ we were that they had been able to bring up Vaughan’s stats since ‘crashing’ babies are temperamental, and the likelihood of any permanent damage due to oxygen deprivation was minimal. He told us that they thought the crash was a result of the Surfactant, but then again, being a preemie, Vaughan could have developmental issues that caused the danger. The next 24 hours would be critical and they couldn’t make any guarantees that everything would be all right. This broke my heart because those were the only 5 words I was interested in hearing at that point.
The resident continued on to tell us that it would be a while before we’d be able to visit the NICU now since Vaughan needed very close monitoring but someone would come and get us when everything was more calm…likely 2 or 3 hours from then. I couldn’t even process this information….they were telling me that our baby, our beautiful son, might be losing his fight and we had to wait and see???
Nicole finally cut the doctor off and told him we understood…Andrew and I were both too upset to form any words or thoughts so we just cried silently in the recovery room and held each other…