Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Katie's Story

This is a guest post by one of our preemie parents, Jennifer. Thanks Jennifer for sharing your preemie's story!

I had just hit the 26 week mark in my second pregnancy and my blood pressure was starting to shoot up for an unknown reason. I didn’t have any complications the first go round and I wasn’t prepared for the events that were about to take place. I had spent two days in the hospital during Thanksgiving week and received both doses of the steroid shot which later would greatly impact our little Katie Jo. On Monday November 28th I left work around 3:15pm to go to a scheduled appointment and my blood pressure was 182/118. This is when the whirlwind started.

I was put through a battery of test and started on many IV medications because of fears that I would start seizing since they couldn’t get my blood pressure down. This continued until around 7:30pm when the Dr. told me I was going to be shipped to Tulsa and that I would probably have a baby within the next 24-48 hours. My heart sank. All I could think of was that she was too small and way too early.

Upon arriving at St. John’s in Tulsa, more tests were done. We were told depending on the results they would determine where to go from there. The last set of test results came back around 12:15am and we were informed that I would be going in for an emergency C-section. By 12:55am Katie Jo made her entry into this world, at 2lbs 1oz. 14”. From there on out it was a continuous rollercoaster with too many ups, downs, and curves, to count. She was in the NICU for 74 days, underwent Heart Surgery at 6 days old, was on and off the ventilator numerous times, and battled all kinds of infections and “preemie things”. I was so tired of hearing that as answer for when new things would come about I could’ve screamed. We were told there was only about a 40-50% chance she would make it and if she did there was a very high likelihood she would have to live with many different types of complications due to the prematurity, like blindness, asthma, mental handicaps, and others.

Katie had to fight for her life and that she did. I didn’t get to hold her until New Year’s Eve and that was the best way to start a new year! She was just too small and couldn’t handle the stress prior to then. Although Katie was fighting her daily battles, I too had many emotional ones to over come. My husband and I found strength within each other and God. Through many tears, prayers, and unwavering family support, we were able to get through it all. There were many days I felt guilty that it was my fault, or something I had done, or that I was neglecting one child to be with the other. My oldest daughter at the time was 2 yrs. old. But with Gods help we made it! To this day you would never know all the trials Katie Jo has already lived through and won. She is the most beautiful, perfectly healthy daughter a parent could ask for.

Monday, February 6, 2012

This time around...

It has been a long while (too long) since I updated the blog. For the past 9 months we have been focused in on making sure we do everything we could to see our daughter born healthy and on time. Since her due date was February 19th and I am making a post 3 weeks after her birth then you can deduce that she was, in fact, born early. So we have a second preemie. Not as early as our first but early nonetheless. Anna Lynlee was born January 16 at 35 weeks and weighed 4 pounds 12 ounces. We are so happy she is here, but even though she was fairly healthy this time was in its own way tougher than last time.
Anna came by c-section in Tulsa and was whisked away to the same NICU where our son Isaac spent 5 weeks. Ashley was developing another case of severe preeclampsia and they were concerned that Anna would be small for her gestational age. They would not deliver her here in town because they were afraid she was a little under 4 pounds. So, we once again made the trip to Tulsa, Ashley by ambulance and me with my brother driving me in our car. Things moved more quickly this time than last. The doctors soon told us they were definitely delivering Anna today because of the way Ashley's preeclampsia was progressing and because if they waited Anna would not necessarily grow very much more. So, they prepped her for surgery and started. Ashley's c-section with Isaac was pretty traumatic. She felt the incision (not the pain but the pressure) which caused her heart rate and blood pressure to rise. Because of this, the anesthesiologist knocked her completely out. She did not remember the next couple days except for bits and pieces. This time she was awake and aware. She talked to me through the whole surgery and was awake when they quickly brought Anna around to show us her pretty face for the first time. As they closed Ashley back up I made the familiar first trip to the NICU through the passages only the doctors and nurses are allowed to use. They got her all checked out. She definitely looked bigger than Isaac. Still, she was there. In that place we never hoped to see again. We soon would find out that she needed to be there. She came later, but she actually had an issue that we didn't face with Isaac.
While Isaac's weight and growth was the major concern, Anna's was her lungs. Over the first day after she was born she developed a problem that preemies and sometimes even term babies face. As she cried and coughed to get rid of the amniotic fluid in her lungs, some of the small air sacs in her lungs burst. This caused small pockets of air on either lung called "pneumothoraces." I wouldn't say this is common but it does happen and her doctor (Dr. Anderson who was also Isaac's doctor) was prepared for it. He first made sure the nurses did everything they could to keep her comfortable so that she would not cry and strain her lungs anymore. They monitored by taking x-rays every 12 hours or so. When just rest did not clear them up he had the nurses and breathing specialists do a nitrogen washout. This is where they turned up the oxygen concentration she was getting to as near pure oxygen as was safe, then over a period of six hours work back to room air (21%). This pushed the nitrogen out of her system and seemed to do the trick. After the washout there was just a trace of one of the air pockets left and they began to focus on getting her to grow and hold her temperature so she could go home. She did come home after 2 weeks in the NICU.
The rest of her stay was pretty uneventful. It was all about waiting and holding and making sure that things were ready for her to come home. While our situation was a little different with Anna, many things were the same. The most important thing was that God was there. Our first preemie and NICU experience was traumatic. It was new terms, new issues to learn about and it was learning how to take care of a preemie. The hurt and the fears sort of crept in slowly after the initial shock was over. God was there to comfort us in many ways. With our family and church family, with the welcome place to rest (Hospitality House of Tulsa) and with His Word and prayer. This time the fear was immediate and the hurt seemed sharper. How did we end up here again? What else could we have done? Did we make the right decisions? All of these questions and more crowded our minds before, during and after Anna's arrival. Again though, our family, our church and the wonderful people of the Hospitality House were there for us along with new friends. The outpouring of prayer and support was amazing and it held us up even when we were exhausted and worrisome. Our eyes were more open this time to the other families around us. We knew now what they were feeling. Our first time in the NICU was so new I don't think we realized alot of what went on with the other babies around us until very far into Isaac's stay. This time we heard terms we recognized and saw things we had come to understand over the last 4 years.
Having a preemie is so different from having a term baby and this time we were well aware of that. It comes with a set of struggles and emotions all its own and to be in the middle of it again was at once devastating and familiar. It broke us down and built us back up stronger by God's grace and His provision for our family. We got to minister and be ministered to by a special family we had already been supporting with prayer since before Anna was born. I got to share God's love and his mission for our lives to a family who had been sleeping in the waiting room of the NICU for 2 days. We got to share the preemie experience with church family and friends we didn't have when Isaac was born. We thought we knew alot about having a preemie but we learned so much more this time. Best of all we brought our little girl home whole and healthy. We are well aware that this doesn't happen for all preemie families. That is why we are here. That is why God has given our family and hopefully your family the charge found in the verse this group was founded upon. We are to give to others the comfort that God gives to us in times of trial. We are to love with a love that is sacrificial. Whether that means a prayer, a hug, a warm meal or a place to stay. As I heard my pastor say yesterday, God does not give us His love to hold on to. He gives it to us so that we can share it with others. And, unlike material things, the more we give of His love the more we have in us. If there is one thing we have come to know, it is that God's love will sustain us and we are to share it so that others can experience the comfort it brings.