Molly was our first baby to come home. Statistically, premie girls do better than boys. And she fell in line with the data. In the hospital, she was the first of the four to get off CPAP and oxygen (though she couldn’t stay off oxygen until she was about three months old) and the first to start feedings. She did best at breastfeeding and continued to nurse for nine months. She was a champ and an easy baby.
The day before she was to go home, we had to go over equipment with the oxygen and monitor rep to learn how to use them. It was Sunday, February 21. We started mid-afternoon and the whole thing took way too long. By the time we finished with the demo and the rep was assured we could use the tanks and Screaming Night Machines we would grow to despise that he called heart monitors (they had false alarms all the time and always at 2 a.m.) Molly was exhausted. She’d been required to attend the meeting in order for the rep to place the equipment on her for demonstration purposes. Normally, she’d be asleep because it was between her 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. feedings, because that’s what babies do, especially premie babies who are still a month from their due date. After I tucked Molly back into her bassinette, I told her nurse—a foolish chick I didn’t know, who had never taken care of any of my kids, who was an agency nurse, who you might have picked up by now that I will forever hold in contempt—I told her, (I, Molly’s mother who doubled sometimes as an NICU nurse, as opposed to say, an agency nurse who wasn’t even a regular at the hospital let alone the NICU) I told her that Molly was exhausted, that her schedule was all messed up, and not to even try to give her the 4:00 feeding because no way was she going to eat well and I’d be back to the hospital to nurse her at 7:00.
And do you think she even listened? Take a guess. Go ahead.
Jason and I were getting ready to leave our apartment for the hospital around 6:30 when we got a call from the NICU. Something had happened to Molly. She wouldn’t eat, the nurse thought her belly had "blown up" (a thing you watch for in premies because their guts can die if you put food in them too soon) and she was back in critical condition.
When we got there, Molly was no longer in her clothes, bundled in her bassinette, like a normal baby who was going to go home the next day. Instead, she was flat out on her back in an warming bed (the kind critical babies lie in), limp as a rag doll, with lines all over the place and bruises and blood and it was a mess.
During the 44 days and 5 hours and 33 minutes that my kids lived in the NICU they all won the “Can’t Get A Line In Me For Anything” award every single day. They were the hardest IV sticks in the world and even the best of the NICU nurses, the kind who could even place an IV in a rock, those nurses had trouble getting any lines in my kids. So the last two hours before we walked in there and found Molly tortured and incapacitated in only her diaper, laid out like she was near death, some people had been sticking her with needles. For two hours. Molly had been screaming for two hours. Molly, who hours earlier was a healthy, happy, regular baby on her way home without complications, had been starved (now she’d missed two feedings) and tortured and totally persecuted for two hours. No wonder she looked like death. The idiot who was assigned as her nurse (guess I have some forgiveness issues here I need to work on) called an “on call” doctor who’d never taken care of my kids without even checking with the charge nurse first. Folks, for those of you not familiar with the way things go down in hospital units, if you’re a visiting nurse and you run into trouble, you do not skip talking to your charge nurse first. You just don’t. No matter how slick a care provider you think you are. You just. Don’t. So this chick told a doctor who knew nothing about the situation that Molly wasn’t eating well. (Did anyone notice I said this would happen? Did I not tell her this?) She told him that she thought Molly’s belly looked distended. The doctor gave orders like this: stop all feedings (make NPO), start a line, get cultures, get blood gases, poke her all to hell and back and see what happens.
We saw what happens. Oh, we saw. It was horrific. And the beauty of drawing cultures? Once you do that, protocol won’t let you release the patient until 48 hours have passed to prove that there are no nasty bugs growing in the blood of the victim.
Of course, I don’t need to tell you, there was absolutely nothing wrong with Molly. Except for the incompetent nurse who had care of her for that one stupid shift. When Molly’s regular nurse, Sharon, came back to work on Monday and found out what had happened, she told me she told her charge nurse, “She’s mine!” As in mafia style, I’m taking care of her myself. (I never read anything in the paper about it, so I don’t know.) Even Molly’s pediatrician apparently had some words with the on call doc who blew it so royally. But mostly, I was first and foremost worried and sickened for Molly. I couldn’t believe they did that to her. If only that woman had listened to me.
Not only was it a terrible thing to see Molly suffer so unnecessarily, but the whole thing was a bit of a psychological crisis for me. After infertility and miscarriage, where I got to the point of believing I would never have my own baby, then a high risk pregnancy, where I had no confidence the results would include living children, to the day when I thought “tomorrow I’m taking home my baby” to having that snatched away from me, my brain didn’t know what to do with it all. Coping mechanisms told me it wasn’t real, that I wasn’t really a mom, that I didn’t really have children, that I was never taking any babies home, that we’d never have children. Weird, yeah? I needed therapy. But i had no time for that.
Because on Wednesday, when Molly had gotten back on her feedings, and all of her lab work had cleared, and her bruised arms and legs and head were scabbed up and healing from all the unexpected last minute needle pokes, we bundled her up and took her home, out of that place where I still had to leave three of my babies, where I never knew for sure who would do what to my kids, and where, though the good ones had taken great care of me and my kids, I held on for the day that I would take home all of my kids and never have to go there again. So we kissed the boys goodnight for another of too many times, vowed their day was coming, and we took Molly home and celebrated that we’d made a huge step in the right direction.
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