12 years ago today (in 2002) God preserved a little baby’s life. For anyone who does not know the story, I wanted to share the story of my first son’s birth.
To Nicholas – I’m so glad to know you. I only wish I was the father you think I am.
I wrote this 12 years ago. If you’ve only just met me, remember that at this time I was married to a woman named Julie (we’re now divorced), and I had no love for Christ in my heart. There is a chilling absence of God in my writing. Other than editing broken links and correcting typos, this is otherwise left as it was in 2002.
Nicholas was due September 22, 2002. That is why I rushed out of work at 4:00 on Thursday September 26 when Julie called and mentioned “hospital.” What she was trying to tell me was that we needed to go to the hospital because she was not noticing as much fetal movement as she is expected to notice. We arrived at the hospital around 5:30 PM. I was quickly amazed when I found out that their computers were being shut down from 6:00 to 7:30! Anyway, Julie was immediately put on fluids to lower her fever she had acquired. The on-call doctor diagnosed (from his home) that Julie just had a touch of the flu, and since she was not in labor yet, sent us home. We warily walked to the car, dazed that we were just in the delivery area for the first time since our tour of the facility. We got home after 9 PM.
Friday morning, September 27, 2002 @ 3:21 AM:
After experiencing contractions for a little while, Julie woke me and asked me to help count the contractions. After an hour of it, we called the number and the same doctor called back. Without any concern which we could perceive, he instructed us to count for another hour and then go to the hospital. So we prepared for our trip after another 30 minutes and left around 5:10 AM. From about 6:00 to 9:00, Julie lied in her bed experiencing contractions, discomfort and nausea without complaint. By 9:00, a doctor came. It was the new on-call doctor, whose shift had just started. She came in the room and swiftly decided to induce labor. Given Julie’s condition, (the fever), she wanted to expedite the birth to protect both her and the baby. So at 9:15 I was outside calling the family to let them know; it would still be hours before the birth so they had plenty of time to get there.
By 10, Julie didn’t seem to be progressing further into labor. Nicholas’ heart rate was consistently in the 170’s; below 160 is desired. The doctor recommended an emergency Cesarean Section. Julie was taken away to begin anesthesia; I left to put on my scrubs so I could be there too. While sitting in my rocking chair waiting to be invited in, a man walked up and introduced himself as Rick longlastnamewithalotofsyllables, Pediatrician. He wanted to ask me a couple of questions and let me know what he was thinking. I could not believe how much interest he took in my questions.
His main concern was the meconium in the womb. Meconium is the first feces (stool) of the newborn. It is thick, sticky, and greenish-black in color and may be seen in the amniotic fluid after 34 weeks gestation.
The doctors knew that Nicholas has already had his first bowel movement. They knew it was floating around in the amniotic fluid. The concern was getting any meconium out of his lungs which had gotten in there. The doctor didn’t seem too worried, so neither was I.
After approximately infinity hours, I got to enter the room for the C-section. We were having a quiet conversation when I heard some noise. I asked Julie what it was, and she said it was a baby crying. I couldn’t believe it. I looked over and the doctor was holding a tiny baby. He was gray. I wasn’t ready for that. The pediatrician and a maternity nurse grabbed him and began Apgar tests.
I kept waiting for them to bring him over. It had been drummed into me how important it was to hold your baby right away and bond with him. But they just kept sticking a tube in his mouth and trying to suck something out. They were routine about it though; they had a manner which exuded confidence and calmness. It made me comfortable. Soon they communicated the need to transfer Nicholas to another room. I didn’t know why, so they wrapped him up and brought him over for Julie to look at real quick. Seconds later he was wheeled out with me in tow.
In the back of the nursery the doctor and nurses worked without a break to give him oxygen. I was scared, but again it seemed routine. They were patient and efficient in a cold but compassionate manner. They had a way of doing what they needed to do, explain it all to me, and keep Nicholas going the way they needed to. I tried to understand what was going on, I could tell he had quite labored breathing, but I didn’t know why or what the effect would be. The doctor explained that he thought Nicholas had a respiratory infection; he just needed some help breathing for a little while. When I inquired about the seriousness of the situation he replied something to the effect that it is not very serious, or he would “send him to Children’s Hospital.”
So I went back and forth between Nicholas and Julie. Both doing well. I took pictures for Julie to see of her son. We had a relaxing afternoon overall. Soon it was 5:15 PM. My (now ex) father-in-law and I left the hospital to purchase some things for the house at the store. I left the hospital with my cellphone off, forgetting to turn it back on. This was before we always left cellphones on!
By 7:30, I was cooking dinner. I realized my phone was off so I turned it on and checked my voicemail. At 5:45, Julie’s mom had called to let me know Nicholas’ condition had worsened and he was on his way to Children’s Hospital. This felt very bad. I finally got a hold of Julie, and she told me how to get to see Nicholas.
I rushed to the hospital and waited. Nicholas got there around 9:00 PM that night. Less than 12 hours old, and he is hooked up to more needles than I thought he had vessels, a catheter, and a tube down his throat. The situation was explained as Meconium Aspiration Syndrome. If the infant breathes while still in the uterus or when the baby takes its first breath, the meconium/amniotic fluid mixture can be inhaled into the lungs. The inhaled meconium can cause a partial or complete blockage of the airways, causing difficulty breathing and poor gas exchange in the lungs.
As a result of MAS, Nicholas began to suffer from PPHN, Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn. Long story short, Nicholas’ body does not know how to breathe. There is an imbalance of blood pressure which is causing blood to draw away from his lungs, instead of toward.
So I stayed Friday and Saturday. Nicholas was on a high frequency oscillating ventilator. He was periodically having his lungs cleared as best as possible by the nurses. He is receiving Oxygen and Nitric Oxide. He has a nurse taking care of him and one other baby 24 hours a day.
It is unbelievable how wonderful they are. The people at Children’s explain everything in great detail and are so patient with us through all our questions. We have 24 hour access to see him.
A brief summary of the events which followed. Nicholas came home October 21st, 2001 after about 11 days in the NICU and 13 more days being relieved of drug addiction and progress monitoring. Children’s required regular developmental checkups for Nicholas until his 6 month birthday when he was just too healthy to require more.
If you research meconium aspiration syndrome in 2014, it is a very predictable and treatable situation. 12 years ago, it was not understood as well. Without treatment, he absolutely would have died. The loss of oxygen could have had terrible effects on his neurological system, but God protected him.
God preserved a healthy, athletic young man whose brain and lungs work just fine.
In a side story, there were about 45 beds in the NICU. An acquaintance of mine named Dan was there because his newborn daughter needed heart surgery. We had some good times just chatting in the sitting room. Nicholas came home before Dan’s daughter did as she was younger.
Let me set the stage here. Remember, I’m now home with my baby boy whose lungs did not work at birth. It’s a Monday night and I’m cursing because my son will not stop screaming. My (now deceased) friend Bobby calls me to tell me that he spoke to Dan that evening and that Dan’s baby girl, Taylor, had died. I remember feeling so terrible for being mad at my son for screaming. Oh how Dan likely wished for a screaming baby to hold.
For those of you who know Nicholas, I thought you might enjoy this bit of history. For those of you who only know Wesley or from pictures…well…this is the story of one of Wesley’s favorite people.
Thanks for reading.