If you haven’t read the first 3 parts of Junior’s birth story, here are the links:
At the risk of sounding long-winded, this story has five parts. In my defense, a lot happened!
It turns out that Evergreen has a policy for ‘shared’ NICU rooms – if more than one family has a baby in the room, family members are allowed to visit as long as they want… but they must leave the hospital if they want to nap or sleep. The rationale is that this prevents families from fighting over dumb issues like cloth vs. disposable diapers when everyone gets tired and cranky. (Apparently this has happened once in the past.) If there’s no animosity between the families sharing the rooms, or if one family member is recovering from a traumatic delivery, it doesn’t matter. Fall asleep, and out you go.
We were in a room set up to be shared, although it was generally used for twins. There were no single rooms left when Junior was moved to the NICU. All was well on Wednesday and till Thursday evening. We had food in the fridge, had brought up a few creature comforts like a blanket or two, and were doing all right. We interacted as little as possible with our day nurse, and watched the clock like a hawk until 7 PM, when the night shift took over.
Thursday morning, I was positive that something was wrong with me. There was more blood than ever in the toilet, even though there was less and less on the pads they give us postpartum moms. The pain from the catheter was increasing, which also didn’t match my previous three experiences. I called my OB’s office and asked to be seen.
My OB was off that day, so they agreed to have me seen by another doctor in the practice. A hospital volunteer brought up a wheelchair and delivered me there – also managing to run into at least half of the doorways on the way over. She parked me in the waiting room.
There are two receptionists at this office. One, who set up the appointment and saw my rather distraught expression when I arrived, assured me that she’d get me back to an exam room pronto. Then she got diverted by something else, and never returned.
The other receptionist ignored me for the next half hour while multiple patients arrived, were seen, and departed. I finally worked up the energy to roll up to the desk and managed to find the first receptionist, who promptly apologized for forgetting all about me.
The doctor said that in order to really tell if I was bleeding from my bladder, they’d have to re-catheterize me. At that point, I broke down in tears. I felt the catheter go in during surgery after spinal anesthesia, I wailed – I can’t handle another one!
The nurse suggested that they run a test on a urine sample. Sure enough – there was blood. The doctor explained that it would take 24 hours for them to culture it in the lab. While I was there, did I want him to take a look at the incision?
He took one look, and opened the door and called for the nurse. “Come take a look – this is a classic case of extremely severe bruising following a breech c-section!” Honestly, I could have handled being used for Show and Tell for the whole staff, had he not proceeded to accompany his mini-lecture with poking and prodding at my misused abdomen. Fortunately, after a couple of minutes, he glanced at my face and realized that I was in a ton of pain. He stopped mid-sentence and sheepishly departed, with haste.
The nurse came back and asked if I was ready for them to take me back to the lobby to await my volunteer chair-pusher. I was working my way through a box of Kleenex at the time; they let me stay in the exam room until I was retrieved and delivered back into the hands of Mr. Caffeinated and the increasingly hostile NICU day nurse.
Thursday afternoon, around 5:00, we’d eaten dinner and were settling in for naps. I was finally able to get some rest lying down, and I was going to take full advantage of it.
Thursday at 5:30, all hell broke loose.
Our first warning was when the day nurse charged in the door, and said, “Clean up all your stuff and Get Out.”
Really? Was Junior being discharged? We could take him home?
“No. There’s a bunch of babies getting moved up to the NICU, and one’s headed up to this room. I told you that you couldn’t move your stuff in here or sleep here. Pack it up and get out.”
I was ready to duke it out over my being dragged away from my child’s side, but Mr. Caffeinated held me back. He waited till the nurse stormed out, and murmured, “Look at the clock. She’s off shift in a little over an hour. I’ll move our stuff out to the van, and we’ll ask to speak to a doctor. They can’t get to us all that quickly. We’ll wait for the night shift – cooperate, but stall.”
So that’s what we did. With all but one small bag of stuff taken out of the room, we scrunched into a corner out of the way and made ourselves as unnoticeable as possible.
About 6:00, an entourage of doctors and nurses descended on the room with a screaming infant, trailed by the baby’s father and grandfather. The team had the baby on another heating bed, and was busily hooking him up to the same set of oxygen tubing, sensors, IV, etc. that Junior had sprouted.
One nurse in red scrubs was constantly dashing in and out of the room, giving and taking orders, and trying to be multiple places at once. We found out later that she had been put in charge of three of these babies in crisis, and was trying to coordinate care for all three at the same time. Every time she walked into the hallway, the nurse-in-charge (her boss) was constantly yelling at her for something that wasn’t getting done in one of the other rooms. She was holding it together pretty well, although it was obvious that she was on the point of tears. Eventually she was able to hand off the other cases, and was assigned solely to our room.
The father and grandfather were on the periphery of the crowd, looking scared and completely stressed out. At one point, the pediatrician was talking to them and found out that the grandfather was also a doctor – a family practitioner, back in India. I thought he looked like he fully expected his grandson not to make it; I expect he’d seen babies in better shape die for lack of care back home.
Somewhere in the middle of the insanity, 7:00 arrived and the day nurse left for the night. My friend S.S called to see how we were doing, and I let her know that it looked like I would need to take her up on the offer of a place to sleep, and a ride. I suspect she dropped everything and cleaned house… at any rate she told me that she was ready to come get me any time.
Once things got calmed down, the nurse in red scrubs introduced herself and let us know that she was on duty for us as well. I’d fed Junior once in the chaos, and took advantage of the fact that she’d been too busy to force me to sit on the recliner by the incubator. (The recliner was a torture device for post-partum mothers of my measurements, and nursing there was horrible.) I guess her boss had noticed, because apparently one of those screaming sessions in the hall had been over our nurse’s neglect in forcing the issue. I apologized. She found me some pillows to pad out the chair, and life was bearable.
After Junior was fed, the father of the other baby came back from checking on his wife. I’m sure that he’d been told we were there, but that was when it finally sunk in. It must have been fairly frustrating to him, to see me holding Junior in my arms like a normal baby, with only a few wires trailing out of the end of the blanket to show that he was hooked up to anything at all.
“Why are you in here?” he asked.
“Because – four days ago, our baby looked just like your baby,” I answered. You could see the relief just roll over him. If ours had looked as bad has his, then perhaps there was hope. It was a great moment.