The Family

The Family
For Christmas 2010

Welcome to our blog!

We've decided to start at the beginning and work our way forward. You'll have to check back often as we chronicle the last 2+ years.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

In My Heart I Just Knew

Following a short morning's sleep, we made our way over to Primary Children's to see our Nathan boy.

It was the first time we had ever seen him from close up. It was such a sad sight.

Nathan was hooked up to the ECMO machine. Two really big tubes were were surgically inserted into his heart through the right side of his neck. Due to the sensitivity of the tubes and their position, Nathan had to been on a medicine that completely paralyzed him.

Additionally, he was also on a high oscillating ventilator that provided him with over 600 breaths per minute.

He was also hooked up to number of monitors that kept track of his heart rate, his blood pressure, and the amount of oxygen in his blood in two different places.

So Nathan just laid there. Motionless. With goop on his eyes. And unexpected to us, he was very puffy. Apparently, one of the side effects of being on ECMO is that the baby's body tends to retain a lot of water, making him very swollen.

Because of all the machinery and monitors, we were basically only able to touch his head and his feet...and sometimes a hand.

Because Bekah was still recovering and because there wasn't really very much we could do, we didn't stay very long.

Later that afternoon, I made my way back to back to Nathan's room by myself, just so that I could be alone with him, father and son. My heart ached to see him there. Both of us so helpless.

But then the most amazing thing happened. It was like the sun began to shine directly on my soul. I looked around, but didn't see anything. But I knew that angels were there present in the room that day. And in my heart I knew that Nathan would survive. I just knew it. For the first time during the entire 4-month ordeal, I knew it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sometimes You Hear What You Want To Hear

I returned back to the Labor & Delivery room to find that Bekah was being transferred to Recovery.

After everyone had departed and things settle down, I told Bekah all that had happened with checking Nathan into the hospital and that we were supposed to call at 6:30 to find out more, which by this time was not that far away, but still couldn't come fast enough.

At the appointed hour, I phoned the NICU to find out more, anything really, about Nathan and what the plan was. I was connected with the doctor on staff and she informed me that they were deciding whether or not to put Nathan on ECMO and that she would call me back once they had made the decision.

I hung up the phone and told Bekah that they were deciding whether or not to put Nathan on ECMO. She and I both understood that to mean that Nathan was doing better than expected and would likely not need to be placed on ECMO. We were excited and comforted by that fact and decided to get some sleep until they called back.

Within an hour, the doctor had called back and let us know that they had decided to go ahead and place ECMO and asked for our consent for the procedure. Without hesitation, we readily agreed and went back to sleep.

Sometimes, it's an amazing thing how the mind works. You can easily hear words and assign them a meaning that best fits the scenario you want.

It was over a month after Nathan was born that we "secretly" found out what happened during those fateful 45 minutes between 6:30 and 7:15am.

When the doctor had told us that they were deciding whether or not to put Nathan on ECMO, we assumed that to mean, as mentioned above, that Nathan was doing better than they expected and that ECMO might not be necessary to save his life.

What the doctor actually meant was that Nathan was much more worse off than they expected and they were debating whether or not it would be worth it to put him through the stress of the surgery when, statistically, he wasn't likely to survive.

During those last 45 minutes of discussion, even though medically the likelihood of Nathan surviving was extremely low, the decision was made to go ahead and let the opportunity for a miracle happen.

And that's a decision that we are grateful for every single day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Arriving at Primary Children's

I left Bekah with the nurse and accompanied Nathan and the Life Flight team from the NICU.

We left Labor and delivery and made a brief stop in the waiting room, where both my and Bekah's mothers had been anxiously waiting. We then continued to the elevator, down to the first floor, and out to the skybridge that connects the two hospitals.

The Life Flight team hurried down the crossway. Every moment was critical. Nathan made no movements. No sounds. But the beeping from the monitors seemed to indicate that Nathan was not enjoying the trip.

"He doesn't like the rivots," Andrea, the Life Flight team leader commented to her team members as every few yards the Space Shuttle would "click-clack" over them. It's maybe a 100 yards from one hospital to the other along the skybridge, but for Nathan that morning it probably seemed like a 100 miles.

We reached the other side, entered the building on the 4th floor, and hurriedly continued to the NICU. Once there, I followed Nathan and the team into the closest room, a room that we would later call "The Sickest Baby Room."

Except for 1 nurse (and now us), the room was empty. No other babies. No other staff. No crying. No noise. Just us in a quiet, empty room.

In my head I guess I was expecting "the TV episode" where there are dozens of hospital staff and they are all frantically zig-zagging about trying to get Nathan accommodated. But that wasn't the way.

The quiet was both frightening and reassuring at the same time. They knew we were coming right? They're prepared for us? They know what they're doing? Of course they know what they're doing. Of course they're ready for us.

But what am I supposed to do now? Probably sensing my confusion, a nurse approached me and directed me to the front desk and indicated that he would be able to help me. I signed a few papers, was given a code that we would need to present when we called in to check on Nathan, and a few other items of information.

I was trying my best to listen to everything he was saying, but with an extremely sick baby in the next room, an exhausted wife in the next hospital over, the lack of sleep, and the sheer anxiety of everything, I found it really hard to focus.

A soon as he was done explaining, I finally heard the words I had been waiting to hear: "Do you have any questions?"

"Yes," I replied, "What do I do now?"

At that point, the doctor approached me. "Go back and be with your wife. If you don't hear from us by 6:30, give us a call."

It was 4:30 in the morning. I made the long, lonely walk back to the other hospital, my heart now pulled between 2 places: my wife in one hospital and my son in the other. As I retraced my way back, it was so surreal to think that I was just here a few minutes before chasing the Life Flight team in the other direction. The hallways and skybridge were so quiet. No one else around.

It was going to be a long 2 hours.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

He Just Looked So Perfect

Around 4am, one of the nurses brought in a wheelchair so that I could transport Bekah to the NICU.

As we entered the room, it seemed very small and crowded. There were a couple of other babies, a few nurses, a couple of doctors, and the Life Flight team already in there. We just wanted to see our baby, but it felt like we were intruding or in the way. We found an open space and positioned ourselves as close to Nathan as we could without being in the way. We were right across from him, maybe 5 or 6 feet away.

Nathan just lay there motionless, the ventilator doing his breathing for him. But I couldn't help but notice as we looked across at him, that he just looked so perfect. Inside, his body was so messed up; but outside, he was beautiful. Looking at him, you would never know that he was so sick and clinging to life.

We weren't there very long before the Life Flight team was ready to load him up and transport him across the way to Primary Children's Medical Center. They wheeled in what we affectionately termed "The Space Shuttle" to transport Nathan.

Unexpectedly, the Life Flight team leader asked me if I was LDS. I replied that I was. She then asked if I would like to give my son a blessing before they took him away. Even though I wasn't expecting it, I eagerly accepted the opportunity and moved over next to my son. He was even more perfect up close!

I gently laid my hands on his little head and prayed Heavenly Father would watch over him and that angels would be with him.

After that, they gently loaded him into the Space Shuttle and invited me to accompany them across the way.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Whisked Away

Because of Nathan's condition, it would be impossible for him to breathe once he was born. It was therefore critical to get him on a ventilator as soon as possible.

As Nathan struggled to breathe, I watched intently as Dr. Byrne worked quickly to clean Nathan up and tie and cut the cord--all in less than a minute! As soon as she was done, she wrapped Nathan in a soft cloth, handed him to the nurse, who then quickly passed him through the window to another nurse waiting in the NICU. She took Nathan away and then closed the window.

Bekah lay recovering. She hadn't even seen Nathan yet. I sat holding her hand as we waited for word on Nathan.

After a few minutes the window opened: "You baby weighs 6 lbs, 10.5 oz. He's on the ventilator, but they're having trouble getting the IV in." And the window closed again. In all likelihood, it probably wasn't that abrupt, but I'm not that far off either.

They're having trouble getting the IV in?!?! What does that mean?

We continued to wait, hoping each minute that the window would open and more news would come through it. Once or twice I even thought about opening the window myself to ask questions or to see what was going on. But I thought better of it, surmising that they needed to focus on Nathan and not on me, no matter how badly I wanted to know what was going on on the other side of the window.

Finally, the nurse opened the window again and let us know that they needed to transfer our son to Primary Children's and had called for the Life Flight team for transport. We would, however, get to see him before they took him over.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Time Has Finally Come

"Thomas! Thomas! Sweetie! Wake up! We're having a baby!"

The words "We're having a baby!" jolted me out of my peaceful slumber.

"We're having a baby?!?!?!"

What time was it? 4am? 5am? 6am? I looked up to find the clock and saw the window to the NICU open. We really were having a baby! I found the clock. It read 1:30am. It was only 1:30am? That meant I had been asleep for just over an hour. I felt like I had been asleep for at least 4 or 5 hours.

But now here it was. Nathan was going to be born any time now...

Dr. Byrne entered the room around 2am. Seeing her was both a relief and a shock. Earlier in the evening, when things were progressing very slowly, she had informed us that she would be heading home for a little bit in order to get some sleep. She also let us know that she only lived about 5 minutes away, so that when it was time, she could get here quickly.

However, during the interim, a large thunderstorm had passed through the Salt Lake area. The storm caused a power outage in a number of parts of the city. And Dr. Byrne's house happened to be in one of the areas where the power had gone out. As a result, she couldn't open her garage door, meaning that her car was stuck in her garage! As a precaution, she had called one of her colleagues to be ready to deliver, just in case.

Of course, we weren't aware of all that was going on outside or even that Dr. Byrne's car was stuck in her garage. We didn't find that out until 2 days later! The only thing we new was that Dr. Byrne might not be able to make it back. As Providence would have it, though, she was able to make it back in time!

Finally, around 2:37am on Wednesday, September 5, 2007, Nathan made his grand entrance into the world.

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Labor" Day

Technically, the night we checked into the hospital was Labor Day. But for our purposes, "labor day" started around 9am Tuesday, September 4.

After our somewhat restless night's sleep, the nurses came in and hooked Bekah up to a pitocin IV around 9am. In my head, I was thinking something along the lines of "OK...we'll be in labor for a few hours and sometime this afternoon our son will be born." In reality, it didn't quite work out that way.

Labor was really, really, really, REALLY slow. And for Bekah it was also really, really, really, REALLY painful. Since it was decided to induce labor a week and a half earlier than our due date, Bekah's body was not ready for Nathan to be born. So we were in for a long day. We played games, watched movies, read books, went on walks around the unit, and did any other mundane activity we could find to pass the time.

Bekah was a real trooper during the whole day. The Lamaze classes we took were really coming in handy. Bekah was doing her best to breathe and try and stay relaxed. I watched the "intensity meter" every now and then to see how things were progressing. There were times when contractions were coming right on top of each other. And she did an amazing job handling them with little, if any, complaints.

After over 13 hours with very little progress, Bekah was extremely exhausted. At that point, we opted for some pharmaceutical assistance to help speed up the process. Around midnight, we had come to the conclusion that it was probably still going to take a few more hours before Nathan was going to be born. So we decided to try and get some sleep.

The drugs were beginning to take effect, and it looked like Bekah was going to be able to get some rest. 15+ hours of labor had taken its toll. Lucky for me, the nurses had brought me in a roll-away bed. It was a much more welcome site than the fold-out chair I had the night before. From the point we were at, I was expecting business to pick up again around 5 or 6am.

I couldn't tell if Bekah was asleep or not, but she looked as relaxed and peaceful as I had seen her since before we started. With that, I rolled over and fell asleep.