Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Miracle of Ordinary Days - Part 17

Every pregnant lady knows this drill.  You walk into your doctor's office and get your blood pressure taken and they test your urine.  Do you know why this is a necessary occurrence for all pregnant ladies?  I didn't until my 34 week of pregnancy with my second child.  I had been on partial bed rest for quite a few weeks because my blood pressure had been higher than normal.  I had always had normal blood pressure up until this time so I didn't think anything of it.  I had not been anywhere near 34 weeks pregnant with Abby so this stage of pregnancy was totally new to me.  Abby was at my mom's house hanging out with Grandma.  She had just turned 3 years old in January.  She was a beautiful, sweet and vibrant girl and anxiously awaiting her baby brother's birth.  We were all very excited!

I had started to swell quite a bit.  Another rather normal symptom of pregnancy.  I kept off my feet as much as possible but I had a busy three-year-old to take care of.  I cut down on my sodium intake and hoped for the best.  At my 34 week appointment I went into see Dr. Fine.  I had been experiencing mild headaches for days and felt very, very tired all of which I attributed to being so far along in my pregnancy. 

When I walked into the back of the office they took my blood pressure and urine sample.  I can't remember the number for my blood pressure but it was very high for me and I was surprised.  Dr. Fine's nurse Jody took me in to lay down.  After at least ten minutes of laying on my left side, she took my blood pressure again.  It was a little lower but still really high.  She went back to find Dr. Fine and he came in. 
Dr. Fine is always really calm and has a way of breaking news to me that I can take pretty well.  He told me that with the high blood pressure and the amount of protein in the urine I would need to be admitted to the hospital so they could monitor the amount of protein and my blood pressure.  When there is protein in the urine it indicates that the kidneys are not able to function very well.  Higher levels of protein in the urine indicate that the kidneys are starting to shut down. 
I realized it was serious when he told me I wouldn't even be able to go home to change my clothes or pack anything.  He asked me about headaches and I told him that I had a few through the week.  Also I had occasionally and more regularly seen stars when I stood up. He looked grim and said they would monitor me but I needed to prepare to have my baby a little early.  Under the circumstances I took that pretty well.  I knew what having an early baby was like and even if I needed to have the baby that day I knew that 34 weeks was not anything like 28 weeks.  Jody gave me a big hug and told me that she was sorry this was happening.  She is always so kind to me.  Dr. Fine told me he would be up to see me soon.

I went to drive my car around to the other side of the hospital and park where there was overnight parking.  I called my mom and told her what was going on.  She told me that Abby was welcome to stay with her until we knew what was happening.  Then I called Aaron and for the first time broke down in tears and told him that they were admitting me.  He told me not to worry and that he would be by as soon as he could. 

I was in the hospital for four days.  I wasn't allowed out of bed except to go to the bathroom and sleep was hard because I was in bed all day.  Even with all of that my blood pressure continued to rise.  They took it hourly day and night.  I couldn't eat very much because at any time my blood pressure could spike and they would need to deliver the baby by c-section.  I tried to keep my spirits up but I felt sad and sick because I couldn't be home and waiting the rest of the time.  I was happy to get that far but sad not to get all the way to the end.  They pumped me full of fluid to keep me hydrated.  I felt like I shouldn't be exhausted but I was. I have never felt so sick in my life.

Finally on March 17th my blood pressure was still very high and the amount of protein that I was spilling was a lot higher than when I had come in.  Dr. Fine came to see me and sat down on my bed to tell me that I would need to deliver in the morning.  He also told me that he would be transferring me to Deaconess so that I could deliver there.  They had been giving me steroids to aid the development of Tyler's lungs but there were still possibilities of problems because he would be delivered via c-section.  The birthing process aids babies born naturally to be prepared to breathe on their own.  C-section babies tend to have more difficulties with breathing after birth because of this.  I was very grateful that Dr. Fine had the caring and forethought to have us moved up there.  He knew that if there were problems Tyler I would be transferred to either Sacred Heart or Deaconess for NICU care.  This way we would not be separated. 

That night was particularly difficult for me.  Aaron had stayed home to be with Abby for one more night and I was alone with my thoughts.  I felt very lonely and was worried for the baby.  I worried that he would have to stay in the hospital.  You would think that having Abby in the hospital would have prepared me to leave another one in the hospital and maybe it did to a certain extent.  I still did not want to deliver early and was more worried about him than I was about myself.  I was still very down and talked with my dad on the phone that night.  He talked with me and prayed with me and made it easier for me to sleep. 

We traveled in the ambulance to Deaconess the next morning and went directly to the delivery room.  Just as it had been with Abby the room was quiet and full of anticipation.  It was not nearly as tense for me because I felt very strongly that he would be okay but it was still a relief to hear him cry.  Aaron left with him to go to the NICU.  We knew the drill and he was able to follow him back with no problem. 

I was taken to my room to recover.  With preeclampsia delivering the baby is supposed to immediately make the blood pressure go down.  This didn't happen for me.  My blood pressure stayed elevated.  I was in a haze and felt huge and puffy.  In reality, I was huge and puffy.  They gave me Magnesium Sulfate which I would like to dub "liquid torture".  The nurse warned me that I was going to feel horrible for a while but that it would help bring my blood pressure down.  She was not kidding.  I have never felt so sick in my life.  I really felt like I was going to die.  They kept the lights in my room low and visitors were not allowed to stay.  Everyone came and left except for Aaron and a nurse who sat beside me until I was stable. 

The only highlight of this time was Aaron coming in with pictures of Tyler.  He looked awesome and I couldn't wait to see him.  He weighed exactly 5 pounds and was having some breathing issues but otherwise he was doing well.  Again, nothing nearly as alarming as Abby's situation but still not anywhere near a normal birth.  I had come into the hospital with a cold and my tendency for breathing problems made this worse.  The nurse kept having to remind me to take deep breaths.  I remember looking over at the monitor and remembering all the numbers from our time in the NICU with Abby what each of them meant.  I watched my oxygen saturation dip down in the low nineties and high eighties.  It was odd to be on the other end of the monitor.  I was fascinated by that and had to remind myself to breathe deeply and when that didn't work well I had to do breathing treatments to get my numbers up.

One of the side effects of the magnesium sulfate was constant sweating and feeling unbelievably hot and prickly all over.  This combined with a plastic bed gave me a giant rash that itched like nothing I had ever had before.  My whole body itched from the inside out and I couldn't do anything about it.  I felt shaky and sick.  I didn't have a clear thought in my head for quite a long time.  I felt very weak and very out of it.  I kept my eyes closed and tried to sleep.

Slowly through the day and night my numbers improved.  They took my blood pressure so often that they didn't even take the cuff off of me and sleep was not easy.  I don't remember seeing Tyler that day except in the pictures. I wasn't well enough to get up out of bed to do it anyway.  Details of that time are very spotty for me.  I remember only waking up periodically to see Aaron studying diligently in the corner and the occasional nurse that came to check on me.  Later that night I remember telling someone about the rash that I had and their surprise at how bad it was.  Aaron left for a little while to have dinner and four nurses came to help me get clean. It was a little painful for me but it felt so nice to be cooled down and to have my hair washed that I didn't care.  It had been about a week since I could get up out of bed and I'm sure I looked pretty terrible.  Nurses are amazing like that. They helped me so much that night.  I felt pretty helpless because I had just had a c-section and was sick enough that moving was difficult but they took really good care of me. They gave me a new bed with clean sheets and clean clothes to change into and I felt much better. 

I started to feel better as my blood pressure went down.  I don't remember how long it took for it to get back to normal but it took longer than it was supposed to.  Dr. Fine was off for a day and his partner Dr. Brasch came to see me.  I remember that he came in and told me that I needed to buck up and get better or he would not let me see my baby the next day and that I needed to work harder at getting well. I'm sure this was meant to be encouraging but at the time it was infuriating.  I am rarely openly ticked at people but I gave him some saucy words in return.  What more did he want me to do? It's not like I was forcing my blood pressure up at will.  I'm sure he was trying to tick me off so I would fight a little more but I was seriously done.  I wanted Dr. Fine back.  Don't mess with a mommy in pain, mister. 

Finally they moved me out of the recovery room and I was in my own room.  My blood pressure was normalizing and I was able to get up and walk.  I had wanted to see Tyler all night but hadn't been with it enough to worry.  Aaron went to every care time and gave me updates to how he was doing.  It was late afternoon and I was able to visit Tyler.  He had needed the ventilator for part of the night but when I saw him he was on a nose cannula and doing very well.  He had frequent central apnea episodes that were the main concern but was otherwise doing well.  He was so much bigger than Abby which was such a relief and I fell in love with him instantly.  I didn't get to stay very long because I was still weak.

The only other side effect of that really high blood pressure was some eye damage.  I had a few blank spots in my vision.  It was very strange because I could see everything clearly but there were white spots where there was nothing but white.  It was odd for me but it went away after about three months.  It was a relief to know that it was not permanent. 

Abby came to see me with her Grandma and Grandpa Martin and we were able to show her pictures of her brother.  She was so cute and wanted to see him.  I was able to go home after four days in the hospital and recover.  Leaving Tyler in the hospital was heart wrenching but easier because I knew that he would not be there as long as Abby had been.  I tried to make a joke about it by saying that I needed the nurses to get him on a schedule before we brought him home.  It did give me time to heal before he came home but obviously I would have preferred for him to come home with us. 

Tyler was doing well and his experience in the NICU was much shorter than Abby's.  It was nice to be there with him and feed him.  It was also cool to visit with the doctors and nurses once again.  He was transferred over to the feeding and growing nursery after just a few days.  He didn't have the problems with getting tired that Abby did and he could take a bottle and breast feed with no problem.  He was still having central apnea spells which prevented him from going home but he was ready to come home in every other way.  They told us to plan on him being there for at least a week and they slowly added on more time. Every time that he would be scheduled to go home the next day he would have another apnea spell and have to stay longer. It was a process that we were used to but it was still difficult because life was on hold again and we wanted things to return to normal. 

Finally everything was ready to go.  I had been scheduled to deliver him at 38 weeks on the 7th of April.  That was the day that we brought him home from the hospital.  We celebrated and took pictures with Abby, Aaron and Tyler all decked out in their Husky clothes.  We were a whole family again and Abby had a new brother that we all adored.  Our wish of more children had come true and I was so grateful to be with them.  Through those dark nights in the hospital I had pondered what life would be like for my little family if I were not to survive and the prospect was not one that I wanted to consider.  It was the closest to death that I have ever felt in my life and I knew more than ever that I was where I wanted to be doing what I wanted to do and now I had two beautiful children to teach and help.  It was a blessing for me and I was fully aware of God's help once again in my life to bring me through a difficult personal trial.  I knew that he was aware of me on those dark nights when I was alone and I received the comfort that I needed through those prayers and I was very grateful for that.   My new life with them was just beginning and a new spirit of reassurance and happiness entered my heart.  I knew that there would be challenges ahead but with my family around me, I felt I could do anything.

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