Saturday, November 06, 2004

Lessons of the ICU

You learn a lot very quickly in the neonatal ICU. Most of it, you wish you never knew.

Some isn't so terrible, like lessons from high-school biology about chromosomes and the transformation of oxygen into carbon dioxide. Most of what you learn flat-out stinks, like how much mucus can build up in your son's throat before he can't breathe.

Today, we learned what happens in hospitals when babies die.

It's as bad as you'd expect. Will's neighbor, who was born Thursday at 1 pound, 10 ounces, was pulled off the ventilator this afternoon. Her mother wailed, then cradled her daughter for about an hour. Nurses took photos of the two of them together. When the mother was wheeled away, the nurses dressed the baby up in nice clothes and took more photos before pulling the curtain to the room.

It may be the saddest thing we've seen at Beaumont. Making it somehow sadder was that the scene didn't seem unordinary. Nurses followed protocol and kept quiet. Doctors hovered a few yards from the family. Walking by in a hurry, you'd be hard-pressed to know anything was amiss.

They'd all done this many times. They were good at it.

Will hadn't had a great night. There was some fear he'd have to return to the ventilator for the third time, but he rebounded well today. We like to take some credit, having spent the better part of eight hours holding his hand and ordering his carbon-dioxide levels to fall to safer levels.

It was tough to take our eyes off the nurses making the bed around Will's neighbor. We did so long enough to kiss Will on the knee, wish him a happy 22 days on Earth and tell him to keep making us proud.

As difficult as it was to watch, it's something to remember the next time we feel like bellyaching.


Blogger steve_kurth said...

Gee whiz, that was a scary post. Keep yer chins up. 22 days is good! Seems like he was just born yesterday. Next thing you know, he'll be going to the prom.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck, guys! Keep your hopes up. There are a lot of people out here praying for little Will. He'll be up and running sooner than you know! -- Anjali Sekhar

12:05 PM  

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