Here's to the back of 2009.
This year I gave birth to the most beautiful child in the world and I was able to spend 11 months with him, at home, watching him grow. For this we are lucky and am giving 2009 one point. One. Otherwise, though, it let us down. It has a lot of points against it.
It started with a lonely New Years Eve 2008 while I sat in the hospital in Dublin hoping Mister Man doesn't pop out early. He did. Six weeks early. He was put on a ventilator for a few days, and then CPAP for a few days and then we realized just how lucky we are that our preemie only needed to be on assistance for about five days. That's incredible. Sure, he didn't want to eat and he really embraced the lovely shade of yellow that having jaundice afforded him, but we knew we got away lucky.
Another point because I'm feeling generous and regardless of his birth date, he actually is the most beautiful child ever created.
February was great, March went by without a hitch. My mom was with us in Dublin helping us by cooking, cleaning, and rolling her eyes when I would cry about feeling hopeless at motherhood.
April came. April. My mother was diagnosed with cancer and after she broke the news I cried on the phone to her because I was scared and because if I dared imagine the emotions going through her it made my heart break more. She said to me, "Stop crying. You're just like your father." As you have probably gathered, I got my sensitivity from my dad. I'm okay with it.
Two collapsed lungs, a few bouts with pneumonia, 5 rounds of chemo and 35 radiation treatments and my mother was given a reprieve. The cancer, while still there, is "dead on a vine". Mister Man and I were in the US with her the day before she went in for the CAT scan and hear the good news when we got back to Ireland. Our visit ended up being a casual trip to America and not a kiss goodbye.
Fine, another point.
September, October and November pass. I prepare to go back to work in December. Anxious and excited like it was the first day of a new school year. I slid back into the fold rather easily. Until the first Thursday.
"Hi Liz, your angel hasn't had a good day," she said, "He's been running a fever and the poor baba is teary. Can we give him some calpol?"
"Of course. Is he okay?"
"Ah, sure, he's grand. Just a bit of a cold."
A "bit of a cold" on a Thursday turned into a visit up to Our Lady's on a Saturday night. Is it just a cold? Is it H1N1? Let's not take any chances and put you in isolation for a night and then quarantined in the house for four days until you get the all clear the next Wednesday. Just a virus. A mean virus that will be out of his system in no time. Travel to the US for Christmas is possible. It'll be a great holiday.
After an all clear from a doctor on another Thursday we travel to the US on a Sunday, five days before Mister Man's first Christmas. Geema and PopPop's house is decorated for their grandchild's "homecoming". The tree is sprankling, and rotating. (Really.) More presents under that tree for him than I ever experienced my childhood, just as it should be. His cold, while present, is small and not a real concern.
Two days before Christmas it becomes a concern. A slight temp, a building cough. Should we take him to see someone? Will we look like foolish, overprotective parents? Will this trip forever be the butt of a joke? "Oh you know Liz, running straight to the hospital each time that child sneezes. Remember Christmas 2009..." I'm calling it mommy-instinct.
We didn't go to the hospital that night and the next day when he spiked a fever in the afternoon we reasoned that the emergency room is for emergencies and a temperature of 100.4 (after Tylenol and Motrin) and a cough is not an emergency.
Waking up from a nap clammy, and unable to breathe is.
I insisted that he be put into his car seat for the three minute drive to the fancy hospital at the end of my parent's street. I read somewhere that 90% of people get into an accident within two miles of their home. I didn't need for us to be in an accident with a child who is quickly turning blue and losing consciousness. I still feel my reasoning was justified although I was less sure when Bub and I, in a panicked state, couldn't seem to buckle him in properly for 10 seconds. A very long 10 seconds.
Into the hospital and through to emergency immediately. Do not pass go or collect $200 and please give us your insurance information on the way by. O2 saturation, something I had only heard of the week before at Our Lady's but was now something I understood and feared, was at 30%.
"What should it be?"
Sedation and paralysis (a kinder way of saying "induced coma" to two freaked out parents, a nurse later admitted.) to intubate and get a "central line in." The boy inherited my dodgy veins and so a normal line isn't possible. They go right for the groin. The idea of my son so still for so long freaks me out and I cry in bursts. My father cries in bursts while he waits with us in the adjoining room to where they are, in my opinion, frantically treating our son. How many nurses and doctors do you think are needed for such a task? About a billion. We love every one of them.
After intubation, the news that he is going to be on a ventilator, and no, they don't think we are getting back to Ireland on Tuesday, we are wheeled down for a CAT scan to see how bad the damage is and what is it preventing our child from breathing on his own. 15 minutes later he is wheeled up to the pediatrics ICU and we are bestowed a diagnosis -- severe pneumonia.
Pneumonia? Really? All of this over pneumonia? My mother has had that four thousand times this year. I had that in college and used it as an excuse to not attend class for about two weeks when really I only needed a few days to really get over it. He needs an oscillator because of pneumonia? Aren't we being a bit dramatic? Isn't this over the top? Can't you prescribe an antibiotic, in suppository form, if you don't mind (he doesn't like taking medication -- silly boy!) and send us on our way? We have our child's first Christmas to attend to! Don't you see!
"If I put your child's left lung in a bath it would sink to the bottom. It's a dead weight in his chest right now."
"He is critical and we hope it goes the right way. God willing."
"He will likely be on a ventilator for a few weeks. At least."
"He is a very, very sick boy. Very."
Not dramatic, necessary. Two tubes into his side because pneumothorax have been necessary. A blood transfusion because of low hemoglobin has been necessary. Three hard core antibiotics have been necessary. A visit from a pulmonologist, an infection disease doctor, an intensivist and a surgical doctor or resident nearly every day have been necessary. At least one chest xray a day (and usually more) have been necessary. Milla from billing calling the room and asking how she can possibly send a bill to an insurance company not in the US is, apparently, necessary.
We have our favorites at the hospital -- doctors, nurses and respiritory therapists. We cheer when we hear that Jackie or Tatiana will be today's nurse and groan when we hear some of names we'd rather not. It's what we focus on when we can't think about the ventilator, or the tubes and wires anymore. The DING DING of the alarms on the monitors drive us insane, even though they should be background noise by now.
And now we wait. Baby steps, the doctors still tells us a week after admittance. Hour by hour, day by day he will get better. He is stable but cricial. He is on "high, high" status but we get the impression that every day he is losing one of those "highs" which is a blessing and a curse. The less high, the less attention. It's more a blessing, though.
2009 has been rubbish and good riddence to bad rubbish, I say. This might sound ungrateful for the life we have when we are not sick, or worried, or anxious about another family member being sick. We are not. We are grateful for every moment we get with my family, Bub's family (I didn't even mention the medical woes on that side but, eek.) and, most importantly, our little, soon to be one year old, boy.
My mother still has a clean bill of health after a CAT scan on the eve of the new year, we have had the support and love of our family and friends all over the world and our baby boy will come out of the hospital in 2010 a million times better than he entered it in 2009. That'll be a great start to a great new year.