The Family

The Family
For Christmas 2010

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

NICU Recollections -- Thomas

Just like Bekah, I have a lot of feelings and memories of the NICU.  It's hard to pick just a few things to write about.

I remember following the Life Flight team as they took Nathan in the little "space shuttle" from University Hospital across the way to Primary Children's and then having to leave him there not knowing what was going to happen.

I remember, early on, every time Nathan had a good day, that Bekah and I would sing "He had a good day" to the tune of Daniel Powder's song "Bad Day."

I remember the night Bekah called me at work to let me know that she was going to get to hold Nathan for the first time, so I left work to head up to the hospital, hoping that I would get a turn as well -- which I did!

I remember the first time Nathan smiled -- he was about 3 months old -- and I was able to get a picture of it with my cell phone.

And I remember when one of Nathan's roommates didn't  make it.  He was just too sick to survive.

I didn't get to go to see Nathan every day like Bekah did.  Instead I tried to juggle being at work and being at the hospital the best I could.  I would usually make it up to see Nathan two or three times a week on average.

One of my best and favorite memories is from early on during Nathan's NICU stay, after he had come off ECMO but was still in The Sick Baby Room.  Since I didn't get to be at the hospital every day, my biggest fear became that Nathan wouldn't know who I was. That he wouldn't know that I was his dad.  That I would be just another guy who came in to check on him every once in a while.

So it was always really exciting and a big relief when I would get to the hospital, Nathan would be asleep, and I could whisper in his ear "Nathan, daddy's here" and he would open his eyes and look at me! 

And every time I would leave I would tell him the day that I would be back and how many days away it was.  And every day that I couldn't be there, Bekah would tell him how much I missed him and that I couldn't be there that day because I had to be at work but that I would be back again in so many days and that that was only so many days from that day.

But perhaps the biggest (and for me most painful and life-altering) experience, came when Nathan was just 2-3 weeks old.

There was a time, over a few day period, when out of nowhere, Nathan's heart beat would randomly skyrocket to over 200 beats per minute (his normal awake heart rate at the time was about 150 bpm).  In addition, his blood pressure would go all wacky and his blood sats would drop a little.  It was really, really scary.  And it happened around the same time every day and would last for about 20-30 minutes each time.

What made it worse was that we felt like we couldn't do anything to help. 

On one of these days, I was sitting in a chair next to Nathan's bed when he had one of these "freak outs."  I felt so hurting and helpless inside as I watched Nathan be in so much pain and trouble.  He looked over to me and I could see in his eyes how excruciatingly horrible the experience was.  I could read as plain as day the look in his eyes saying "Dad, please help me" and I just wanted to bawl my eyes out because I couldn't do anything to help my son.

That night after we got home, it finally dawned on me what Nathan was looking at me, pleading for me to help him, even though I felt helpless to do so.  The fact of the matter was that I could help my son.  I had the priesthood and could bless him.  It became so clear to me that the pleading look in Nathan's eyes, even though he was only a couple of weeks old, meant that he knew that I could help.  He understood the power of the priesthood.  He knew the power of priesthood blessings.  And he was looking to me as his father to help offer him the relief that he so desperately needed.

I felt so ashamed and guilty that I had not recognized it sooner.  I felt like I had let my son down.  There are few feelings worse than that.

So I made sure to be there the next day around the same time, so that I could be there to bless my son, which I did.  And, quite soon, he stopped having the "freak out episodes" as we called them.  It was truly a miraculous blessing for Nathan and for us, for me in particular.  For me it was life-changing.  To always be ready and worthy to help my son anytime he needs it.

As Bekah mentioned in her recollections, the NICU at Primary Children's is a very special place.  So many wonderful doctors and nurses and other staff.  So many wonderful parents.  So many wonderful and precious babies.  And so many wonderful trials.  I don't know that many can understand "wonderful trials" unless you've been through them.

Yes, it is a special, and I would offer up sacred as well, since I truly believe that there are angels there to watch over all those little babies.  To offer them love, hope, strength...and to guide the ones home who only needed to be on earth a short time.

I've said this many times to a number of different people and I'll say it again now.  I hope that none of you ever have to go through anything like what we went through in the NICU, but I wouldn't trade our experiences there for anything.  And I'm eternally grateful that at the end of our NICU experience, we got to bring Nathan home.

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