Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The NICU: Heaven and Hell on Earth


I have the absolute best things to say about the NICU.  The best things to say, that all still resulted in the worst possible thing, my baby dying.  I love the NICU, I really do.  I used to miss being there, shortly after Ethan died.  It wasn't just that that was where I had known my son, or that that was where my son lived his entire life.  It was more than that.

It was the people there.  The doctors, Paul and Linda among many, who introduced themselves by their first names.  The doctors who stayed hours after their shift was over to wait for me to wake up just so they can personally explain what was wrong with his heart.  The doctors who stayed after their shift to be there while we took Ethan off of life support.  The nurses, Tava, Maureen, Maryann, Sarah, Mel, Mary among others, who jumped to sign up to be on Ethan's care team.  Tava even called her friend Sarah, fellow overnight nurse, to tell her all about Ethan and how Sarah had to take care of Ethan on the nights that Tava wasn't on shift.  Sarah who spoke of her patients as "Sarah's babies."  I found that so reassuring that even though I was physically unable to be next to him at all times, someone who loved him like a mother was there on my behalf.  The respiratory therapists - they are angels among us.  Perhaps unsung heroes in the NICU.  I love them for bagging Ethan for hours, staying by his bedside their entire shift as they tried countless ventilators with countless settings.

The NICU was the most miraculous place I have ever been.  Seeing a 1-pound baby alive, with a real chance of surviving.  I pray for that baby every day, and for his/her family.  It was also the most traumatizing 4 days I hope to ever have to experience.  It was evident that Ethan was the sickest baby there, a humbling experience as it is one of the very best NICUs in the world.  That first 18 hours or so Ethan had 6 plus staff working on him constantly.  You could barely see the incubator, it was quite a site.  But they made room for me and Josh, insisted that we come right in front of them and talk to Ethan and hold his feet and hands.

Bells and alarms.  I heard them in my sleep for a few weeks after his death.  Every time his heart rate or breathing went too high or low the monitors started flashing, bells and alarms would sound and respiratory therapists and neonatalogists came running to him.  Did you know that there is a ticker above the door of the NICU?  Well there is.  It rotates through the incubator numbers, indicating if something was of concern with a particular baby.  Ethan was a frequent flier on that ticker.  When things were really bad it would flash Ethan's incubator number in red lights, followed by the medical concern.

You know what I love about the NICU?  They all loved Ethan.  I mean they LOVED Ethan.  I saw it in their eyes.  I read it in their personal letters they wrote and mailed to us over the weeks and months of this Summer.  I saw it in their tears.  I saw Tava gently wipe away the tears, out of the corner of my eye, as she heard me tell Ethan to hang on as "life got better."  I saw the tears welling in Maureen's eyes as she came out to tell me it was time to have Josh come back from NH.  I saw the soft tears of Dr. Larue as he asked me how I was, and knew the painful truth before I answered.  I saw his bloodshot eyes as he sat across the conference table telling me it was time to let Ethan go.

I love that Ethan's nurses, respiratory therapist and doctors said the Our Father with us, placed their hands on us, as we baptized Ethan.

I love the NICU staff, people I consider to be friends, for not running away from me, Josh or most of all Ethan.  They didn't run from the pain, they held our pain.  I love them for celebrating Ethan's birth with me, and for honoring his death with me.

The NICU is a place of miracles and also of tragedy, depends upon the day, hour, baby.  Even though our sweet boy was unable to stay, I will always remember the NICU as a place of God's Love.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Annie... that is just the most beautiful post. I knew that the staff in the NICU was special but I really had no idea, how special. I love you Annie.