Monday, August 8, 2011

Familiar Environment, Part 2

We sat there, observing the technician who was performing Lincoln's ECHO, trying to figure out if the prognosis was good or bad. Never a good idea...but you can't help it. The tech finished up and the images were sent to the Pediatric Cardiologist. We knew him. It was the same doctor who had diagnosed Savannah. His newest assignment: Review Lincoln's images immediately and get the results to the head of the NICU, who would then deliver the news to us...good or bad.

Lincoln continued to be prepped for transfer as we waited for the ECHO results. Suddenly, the doors to the NICU swung open and the transport team entered. This particular experience was new for us. There were two ambulance drivers, a lead NICU doctor and a lead NICU pediatric nurse, as well as an additional nurse. Then there was the "NICU On Wheels". It was essentially an infant incubator on wheels, decked out with every single piece of medial equipment one could imagine. It was quite the sight. Lincoln was placed inside of it with all kinds of monitoring equipment attached to his tiny body. We had never seen anything like it. After much discussion, we decided not to follow the ambulance to the hospital Lincoln was being transferred to. We wanted to wait for the ECHO report...and we were anxious for the results.

Lincoln was nearly ready for his transfer when the lead NICU doctor came out to speak with the technician. The Cardiologist wanted one more set of pictures of Lincoln's heart...from a very specific angle. Rob and I looked at each other. This couldn't be good. My heart was pounding and my stomach was in knots. One of nurses sensed our tension and fetched us a couple of food trays. He escorted us to the nurses break room, which was within the NICU, keeping us close by, but a few steps away from all of the commotion. We closed the door and ate.

We sat there, inhaling our food and talking. Could we deal with another heart defect? Could we hand off another child for heart surgery? How could the great God we loved with every part of our being possibly ask us to do this - again? And yet, as we set there before the Lord, we were at peace. We knew people were praying for us - it was the only explanation to the peace that we felt. The situation was still scary and unpleasant, yet manageable.

We talked about the people we were meeting. We talked about how we hoped our faith in the Lord was being shown to others through this situation - specifically the hospital staff. We prayed together. We were quiet. We told the Lord if this is what it was going to take to bring even just one more to Him, then ok. We would face another CHD head on. We would embrace whatever was going on within Lincoln's body - a little body that the Lord Himself had created. If he needed to use Lincoln as a disciple for his work, so be it. We didn't like it, but we were willing. There was no doubt it wouldn't be easy, but we had never know the luxury of why start now? We couldn't help but really is the best medicine.

We finished our meal and waited for the ECHO to wrap up once and for all. The images were sent over to the doc - they were exactly what he needed to make a final diagnosis. We prayed over Lincoln, so tiny in that "NICU on Wheels", and off he went. As we watched him leave, we were overcome with every possible emotion. The doors closed and we took a deep breathe - ECHO results were expected within minutes.

The NICU doctor came out. We were certain that something was wrong - certain that a CHD was present. The doctor spoke. Lincoln's heart was PERFECT. There was NOTHING wrong with it. Nothing. Yes, Lincoln had a lung infection and was dependent on oxygen, but - at least for that moment - they believed that was ALL that was wrong. We were speechless. That was it - round one of waiting was DONE.

Even though we knew our boy wasn't out of the woods yet, we had overcome a huge hurdle. Now it was time to tackle the next one. As we left one NICU for another, we hoped our testimony would linger in that room full of nurses and doctors. We prayed that we'd left a mark on each of their hearts and sparked their curiosity as to what gave us the strength to endure such an unpleasant time in our life.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Familiar Environment, Part 1

We arrived at the NICU. It was certainly busy. There was no doubt Lincoln was a top priority. Before he was transported, they were going to do an ECHO of his heart. We knew this was coming. His blood test had come back abnormal - more than once - and they wanted to ensure his heart was ok. Although they were confident it was, we weren't easy to convince. Savannah already had a heart defect and although Lincoln had been "cleared" of any heart issues at his level two ultrasound, it wasn't necessarily 100% accurate. So it was ECHO time.

There's nothing worse than waiting. As we hung out in the NICU, we realized just how immune we'd become to it all. One of nurses asked how we were doing...she commented that we seemed really calm. It wasn't the first comment that had been made. When I'd arrived earlier that day to sit with Lincoln, they had informed me that they were going to draw Lincoln's blood. They had asked if I wanted to return after they had done so or have them wait until I was done visiting. When I told them I would just sit while they drew it, they seemed surprised. My response - it couldn't be any worse than watching the drainage tubes being pulled from my daughters chest after open heart surgery - the same tubes I had even learned to help drain prior to their removal to keep the fluid moving away from her heart. The nurses had shaken their heads in response, unable to respond verbally. I wasn't trying to be smart or even funny, just stating a fact, as I seated myself to watch and wait.

The beeps, the cords - we could honestly say it didn't phase us much. They all served a purpose and, unfortunately, we knew what most were for and could even re-attach the non-invasive ones if our boy wiggled them off. As we waited for the ECHO to be completed, we struck up conversation. For the nurses and docs who were just coming in, they asked if this was our first and Rob and I looked at one another and smiled. Nope, Lincoln was our fifth. After they picked there jaws up off of the floor, we proceeded to answer the usual questions - sex, name and ages...which we followed up with the various health issues they had been born with.

We watched them. The wheels were turning in their heads. They were curious - how did we handle it? How were we doing - really doing? It's in that moment the door swings open - wide open. We share...everything. The ups, the downs. The good, the bad and the ugly. As nurses and doctors, they see one side of things. But as the parents of these children with quirks, we see the other side. As we wait, we talk. We also get a small glimpse of what God is up too and our grumbling begins to subside, at least a bit...and time passes just a little bit faster.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Empty Arms

I was trying to wrap my head around it, but I couldn't. He didn't have Down syndrome...he was just a chubby baby with a thick neck! His fingers were fine...he had just been a stinker during the Level II Ultrasound and didn't want to open his fist. All the things we'd prepared for - that I, his mother, had prepared for - were not present. Yet he was STILL in the NICU. He was being monitored. It should only be for a bit. I clung to that, knowing way down deep it was likely to be more complicated than that. It always was.

Initially, he was only to be gone a few hours. Those hours came and went. I was moved to the post-partum room. I laid there, waiting for the door open, clinging to the hope that Rob and the nurse would wheel in a little bassinet and I could scoop him up and hold him tight. But Rob entered empty handed. Those "couple of hours" were now "twenty-four hours". Rob asked if he should stay. The answer was "NO!" It was Wednesday - it was Awana night. Jeremy HAD to get his Grand Prix car registered. He would be back later that evening, but in the meantime, I was surrounded by silence. I knew family wanted to be there with me, but I just couldn't bear it. I didn't want to talk about how it would all be "ok". I was ticked and God was gonna hear all about it.

I laid there, beyond impatient. I was fuming. I was angry. I let God have it! How could He do this - AGAIN! For heavens sake, hadn't we been through enough?!?! What more could He possibly want me to learn - us to learn? Why oh why did He have to use MY kids? Wasn't there some other way? I was LIVID! All I had wanted to do was give birth, have that sweet baby boy placed in my arms and go home the next day. Was that really too much too ask?? I was in my most human state. I was being completely and totally selfish and I wanted my son with me - not in some NICU. I knew what I was missing. My arms truly ached to hold him, but they couldn't. It was torture.

Rob returned later that evening and we spoke with one of the members from the NICU. Our sweet, beautiful Lincoln was struggling. He had fluid in his lungs and they were at risk for infection, if there wasn't one already. He was dependent on oxygen. They would take additional chest x-rays and blood work the following morning and proceed from there. The doctor left the room. We sat there. We didn't have to say much to one another. We'd been here before and we were here again. Annoyed was the best word we could use to describe how we felt in that moment.

The following morning arrived. Lincoln wasn't any worse, but he wasn't any better. The day progressed. We knew we'd be there until the following day, so we began to make plans to bring in the whole family for a visit that evening. But it wouldn't happen. The NICU doctor called and informed us they were transferring our sweet boy to another hospital - within just a few hours! We looked at each other...really, God, REALLY???

In all that we'd experienced with our other children, we knew there was a purpose to all this insanity. We could feel the Lord's presence, but we were grumbling - loudly, I might add. We had no desire to be His "tool" in that moment. He knew it, we knew it and I'm certain He was getting a good chuckle as we waited not so patiently for Him to show us the "bigger picture". But He had us where He wanted us and we couldn't exactly leave, so off to the NICU we went to await Lincoln's transfer.