We're heading North again for Labor Day. Two full days in a glorious walled city on a river where the locals speak French, make crepes and have that je ne sais qua about them.
We're going to Quebec City.
We've done this for 3 out of the last 4 Labor Day weekends and the one year we "missed" we had gone the month earlier over the July 4th holiday. We love going there for a whole host of reasons but the main reason is it helps Amazing Guy (AG) and me forget Labor Day weekend of 7 years ago. We're building new memories and traditions to push out the others.
The Friday before Labor Day weekend seven years ago we demanded a meeting with the boys' medical teams.
Our sons were born the week before Labor Day, 2000, at 30 weeks and 2 days. "Normal" gestation for a pregnancy with one baby is 40 weeks so my guys were 10 weeks early. By Labor Day weekend the boys were not yet 10 days old and we were getting confusing information about their health.
The nurses had gleefully put them in the same isolette the night before so they could "be together" for the first time since their birth. The next morning one of our guys tested positive for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a potentially dangerous skin infection requiring him to be quarantined with 2 other preemies who had also strangely acquired this. The other boy didn't test positive for it but since he had "spent" the night with his brother, he was sent to the quarantined room as well.
This meant my initial efforts to breastfeed were stopped (for the time being) since we were not allowed skin-to-skin contact with the boys. We could only hold them while wearing hospital gowns over our clothes, gloves on our hands and masks over our mouths and noses. The hospital claimed this was the first time this infection "got into" the neonatal ICU. They guessed it was spread from someone (patient or medical staff) being in an operating room and the "bug" (such a cute word for a horrid thing) traveled into the NICU.
While trying to get our heads around this diagnosis, change in care and even greater "distance" from our sons (it was bad enough they were in an intensive care unit, now my skin couldn't touch theirs?) another set of initials was thrown at us. The same guy who had MRSA was also diagnosed within hours with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). All I heard was "necro---" meaning "death of---" and I thought I would vomit on the spot. In 2000, NEC in premature infants was 50% fatal. I recently read that in 2005 that had dropped to under 30%. I'm not sure what the survival rate is today in 2007.
That means when my son was diagnosed with NEC in 2000, one out of two babies with NEC would die.
So AG and I were brought into a meeting room with a large cast of characters. Since it was a teaching hospital every medical staff person seem to have a student trailing him or her. Then it was the end of the month which meant the medical teams were "switching". And it was before a long weekend in which everyone was trying to be anywhere but at work. But none of that phased me. I knew we would be dealing with a cast of thousands since we were literally at the best hospital in the world for premature infants.
It was the presence of a certain woman with medium length brown hair that nearly set me over the dark edge no parent wants to go.
She was the "death" social worker. While not her official title she might as well have worn the hooded cloak and carried the scythe of the Grim Reaper because that is who she was. The mental health professional brought in when things didn't look good for your kid.
Our son got through the 14 days of treatment without needing surgery on his intestines that could have required a colostomy bag. He has a permanent scar on one of his arms from an IV blowing up under the skin. Suffice to say that our former little man - now in the 90th percentile for his age for height and 75th for weight - is the strongest and bravest person we know.
I still associate Labor Day with those wretched days in the NICU. The only person I can imagine surviving those days with is Amazing Guy. He was the strongest ally, kindest friend and equally scared new parent. Today, I'm grateful that AG wants to throw everyone in the car and drive away. To make new memories.
And run from the old.
Psst - I won't be on-line until next week. Have fun without me.