Thursday, November 15, 2012

Prematurity Awareness Day: Remembering those that don't make it home.

Our daughter a week after birth

Everyday somebody will lose their baby due to complications from premature labor.

In fact one baby every 30 seconds will die, from complications from premature labor and delivery worldwide.

Those are the babies that will never come home with their family.  Babies whose mothers will only hold them on this planet for a short time, but morn their passing for a lifetime.

15 million babies died last year.

I am one of the lucky one's.  My daughter though born one of the smallest of miracles at 25 weeks weighing 1 lb 14 oz has not only survived but has thrived.  Our family struggled and suffered through trauma, and many scary nights in the NICU but that is nothing compared to those families that never get to take their babies home.

Even I forget how lucky I am sometimes.  It is easy to get busy in normal everyday life.  It is actually easy to take your miracle for granted, when she is climbing all over you and stealing toys from her little sister.  I just happened to be in the right situation at the right time, and my 25 week baby got the best medical attention possible.  Millions of babies don't.

I am passionate about premature labor, not only because I experienced it but it is a situation that CAN be prevented and improved.  Prenatal and antepartum care is of utmost importance, and can dramatically decrease the amount of premature births.  Measuring the cervical length of all mothers with an ultrasound at 20 weeks, could have a huge impact on decreasing the amount of deaths each year.  This is something that has such a minimal cost but such a huge impact.

Before I was transported on the medical-emergency helicopter the doctor in the small town emergency room made sure I had my first steroid shot.  A simple steroid shot.  Something that cost PENNIES was given to me, and then repeat in 24 hours.  He knew the importance of that shot.  He knew to give it to me right away, not to wait until I got transported, but to give it right then.  He knew that even though I was only 23 weeks pregnant that shot could mean the difference between life and death of our unborn daughter.

Our baby, though her eyes were still fused shut and her skin so transparent we would not hold her for a month after her birth was born breathing on her own.  She never once needed the ventilator even though she had four months still before she was supposed to be born.  That was a miracle, but a miracle because somebody knew the right medication to give me at the right time.  That was a miracle that cost pennies to give.

Prior to 25 weeks in many hospitals your antepartum care may be fairly minimal.  The ability to sustain a  life outside the womb is extremely difficult and dangerous at that point.  Because of increased education, and medical advancements there are babies born before 25 weeks that survive. Medical research, antepartum interventions, and prevention can help not only high risk mothers but all mother to reach 25 weeks and beyond.

My second pregnancy was as monitored as a pregnancy could be.  One could say that I was graced again with a miracle this time a miracle that was born at 40 weeks.   This was a miracle that was maintained by intense medical management, weekly injections of progesterone, weekly cervical length checks, fetal fibronectin test, specialist consultations, anti-contraction medications and 17 weeks of bedrest.  This was no simple miracle, this was a miracle that combined knowledge, skill, and determination.  My second daughter was born at 7 lbs 7 oz which was 4 times bigger than her sister.  She came home with me straight from the hospital, a day that I am forever grateful and humbled by.

We most not forgot those babies that don't get to come home.  We have to remember to fight for those that don't have a voice, and for those mothers who are silenced by their own grief.

There is one day late in our daughters NICU stay that I will always remember. She was just learning how to eat and grow.  This is a frustrating but somewhat easy part of a mirco-preemie's time in the NICU.  You work every couple of hours on them drinking a bottle, you change their diapers, and they may have one or two pieces of monitoring equipment on.  We had been there for several months, so I was pretty set in my routine with her.

In our NICU the monitors had the ability to flash another patient (baby) name and information if there was an abnormal reading.  That way a nurse could leave one baby and go to the aid of another baby, especially if the baby was having a severe abnormality on the monitor (decelerated heart rate, etc).  As well, in the NICU there were codes.  In a true emergency code was called, doctors, nurses, respiratory therapist, and every member of the crash team would fly into action.  People and machines would come out of everywhere, and the air was filled with tension, and monitors and loud alarms.

One morning during a normal growing day for our daughter, a crash code was called.  Another babies information was flashed across my daughter boring monitor.  The alarms where sounding.  People were running.  This was not a false alarm, there was a baby in trouble.

I don't know how long this situation went on for, because when you are there it seems not only like it lasted a lifetime but also that it all took place in a second.    What I do remember were the screams.  The screams of a mother yelling, and sobbing over and over and over. The cries of a mother who has lost her child.

I selfishly wish I hadn't heard her sobs, because I can still hear them when I close my eyes.  I can still see her laying crumpled outside the NICU some hours later.  I can see her face as I tried to look away. The face of a mother whose baby had passed away, the look of somebody who appears to be just a hollow shell of themselves 

You see there are plenty of babies that don't come home.  My babies survived, but I still remember the ones that didn't.  I still hear their mothers cries.


1 comment:

  1. Chills. I remember watching a baby code in our NICU too. The mom was not there so I didn't see her reaction but I could see those doctors and nurses working on that baby and I just thanked God that it wasn't mine. I was lucky, too (mine breathed on her own at 29 weeks thanks to the steroids.) So many aren't. Great post.