Thursday, August 30, 2007

Running Away

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.


Jodi said...

Wow! Thank goodness your amazing sons got through that.

My best friend who is a Rabbi worked in NICU for a year. I can't even imagine.

And I'm so jealous, I have always wanted to go to Quebec City.

Flower Child said...

Eat that weird dish they have there - basically fries topped with gravy and cheese. And not give a damn about a diet - revel in being able to enjoy every last sinful bite of it. En Francais of course.

chelle said...

I have travel envy! You are going to Canada! Lucky Cat!

Blow a kiss for me! And have a wonderful time :) The future is so bright ...

Jenn said...

*weird* dish?? poutine ROCKS! enjoy your trip to Montreal and have a wonderful labour day (that's how we spell it up in this neck of the woods) :)

I am in awe of your son - and you two - for getting through that with your sanity and health intact. You deserve this annual vacation for a very long time to come!

Jenn in Holland said...

Oh, my. I already know this story and still the tears are falling this morning while I read this post.
Oh, wow. Allison.
Loud cheers for triumph and victory in coming through such an experience with such incredibly grand results.
Have a wonderful weekend in the North. You deserve all that fun and more to come. Wonderful family.
Wonderful post.

Fourier Analyst said...

Guess AG got to pass on some of his "amazing" genes. A real scary, sad story, but glad it all turned out well. You go and celebrate life and have a wonderful weekend!!

Brillig said...

I'm sitting here all weepy, Allison. What an incredible thing to go through. Your little guy (not so little now, by the sound of things!) is surely headed for greatness. But as a mother, my heart breaks at the thought of those babies sitting in there without their mama's snuggles. Oh, so awful.

Here's to new memories!

(And you'll be greatly missed, but we'll try to understand!)

Jen said...

I hope you have a wonderful trip! And it sounds like a great family tradition in terms of Quebec City!

What a horrifying start to your son's life. And he must be one strong little guy - just like his parents!

Alex Elliot said...

I can't even imagine going through that. That must have been so terrifying. I hope you have a great time on your vacation.

Leslie said...

What an amazing story, thankfully, with a happy ending. I can't imagine going through all that you did. You're one brave family!

Enjoy your trip! You all deserve it.

Real Life Drama Queen said...

Wow! I would do everything in my power to create new memories as well. Have a great time with your wonderful family.

painted maypole said...

make fabulous, fabulous new memories!

Robin said...

Such a frightening beginning to a new life. I can't imagine your terror. What a beautiful idea to create new and wonderful memories to crowd out the old ones, and what better place to do it than Quebec City. I spent my honeymoon there and it holds a very special place in my heart.

Scribbit said...

Wow, that is really amazing. So glad he was a strong little guy--what a scary thing for a parent to have to go through.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That's great your son is okay now, but what a terrfying situation.

Maggie said...

Hope you had a nice labor day.

Reading about your sons make me think again about how precious our children are. Then when they are such tiny pups and now when they can drive you insane. Still precious.

Kate said...

What a scary moment you lived through. That must have been pure terror. Good you get away and forget life for a while. Enjoy! And we'll "see" you when you return!

Jenn said...

Yikes, that does sound pretty awful and scary.

Have fun in Quebec City! I've been to Montreal and Ottawa but never there. I hope you post some photos! <3

jennifer said...

Scary, harrowing story. Reading it brought back one of my own.
The makings of greatness in the end.

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aimee / greeblemonkey said...

Allison, sorry I missed this post last week. We truly are soulmates aren't we. Even down to the timeframes. Declan was born Sept 13th (Friday the 13th) 2002 at 32 weeks and spent 6 weeks in the NICU. We ended up demanding a meeting with the head of the NICU because of the scattered care. Declan's main problem was the suck, swallow, breath thing and he would go into bradycardia whenever he tried. There was one night when I even performed CPR on him before the nurses got to him. Someday I will do a post like this and go into more detail - but we are lucky too - that Declan has recovered from his preeminess, 90% percentile for height, 50% for weight, reading at a 2nd grade level and is turning 5 in 2 weeks.

OK, yeah, he is still a bit clumsy
but so am I. ;)

So, we consider all Friday the 13th's as lucky days now.

Big hugs to you, my friend.

aimee / greeblemonkey said...

Just looked at the dates and Declan's birthday is in ONE WEEK! Eeks! LOL.