Tag Archives: bad news

A Young Nurse

13 Feb

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As Oli began to eat baby food I realized that her GI reflux, which I had been assured would dissipate when I introduced solids into her diet, did not diminish at all. The only difference now was that the things coming out of her mouth and nose were colorful instead of milky white.

When I think about her reflux I remember a young nurse assigned to us in the mother baby unit in the hospital.

It was a few hours after Oli was born and I was finally asleep. The nurse came in to check on us and woke me up indicating that something was wrong with her. I sat up and saw her turning Oli onto her side as she gasped and snorted through a nose full of milk.

“She is spitting up pretty bad. You have to keep an eye on her and keep her on her side. Here, use this to suck the milk from her nose and mouth.” She says as she hands me the little blue bulb I would become very familiar with.

Although this is fairly common and happens to newborns something about the way she looked at Oli that night sent alarm bells ringing through my heart. She had that look in her eyes of a nurse who knew something was wrong, but couldn’t quite put her finger on it. The way she looked at me as she turned and switched off the light said more than her words could have expressed.

I’m concerned about your baby girl. I’m young and intimidated because I know you are also a nurse, but look at me and recognize that something is off.

Of course, I was still deeply submerged in denial and ignoring those alarm bells. I wouldn’t find out until the next day that Oli was blind and I wouldn’t know for another three years that her reflux was linked to another devastating diagnosis.

I just smiled confidently, tucking my covers under my arms as she walked out of the room and assured her that I would watch her closely.

I wonder if that nurse heard later that her instincts were correct?

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This One’s Broken

10 Feb

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” -Ernest Hemingway

The geneticist we saw was a large, friendly woman with a warm smile and a gentle nature. I was not quite as nervous when she asked if she could now perform a physical examination of Oli. I thought, “This woman is so nice she can’t possibly give me any more bad news.”

She started examining every inch of Oli’s little body and then offering phrases to her assistant. I was listening intently as she rattled off terminology to describe my Oli for her chart. Terminology that I was familiar with. I was starting to think that this woman wasn’t so nice.

“Extremely small eye sockets characteristic of microphthalmia and anophthalmia, hypotonia exhibited in all major muscles, microcephaly, congenital mid line defect, dysmorphic facial features.”

These words cut me to my core and left a painful gaping hole in my heart.

Dysmorphic facial features.

What? Are you trying to hurt my feelings?

I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. How could she describe my beautiful daughter as dysmorphic?

Hypotonia in all major muscles.

So what if she was a little weaker than other babies? She could still catch up and get stronger.

Congenital mid line defect.

Mid line defect refers to the abnormalities associated with the fact that the neural tube failed to close properly when the baby was developing during the first trimester of pregnancy.

I hate that term. Mid line defect. I guess because it has the word defect in it and in turn implies that my girl was born defective. Like some sort of toy or kitchen gadget that fails to work properly when you plug it in. I couldn’t just return my girl to the factory and demand a refund. I couldn’t look at God and say “Sorry. This one’s broken. Send me a new one.”

Satisfaction is not guaranteed with children and I refuse to view my daughter as defective.

I told you I was sensitive.

Microcephaly.

She has an unusually small head. I pointed out to the doctor that I seem to also have a small head. I told her that I was able to wear my 9 year old step daughter’s bike helmet. Although, my husband has a huge melon (sorry honey) and I would think that between the two of us it would have balanced her out genetically.

She explained that while Oli was probably prone to having a smaller head because of me, it was more than that. Oli’s head measured below the 5th percentile on the growth chart.

“What does that mean in terms of her development?” I asked quietly.

“It can mean any number of things. She could develop normally or it could mean some mental retardation. Usually with microcephaly we tend to see some form of MR.” She replied honestly with sympathy in her voice.

That was when the fear for Oli’s future really took hold. I was already terrified of her facing the world without any sight but, now I had to think about her learning capacities as well.

Combined with all of the other things we had learned about her, it was starting to look like my girl was not just blind.

Stop picking her apart!

1 Feb

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.

Delicious Ambiguity.”

― Gilda Radner

Driving home from Dr. Hyun’s office that day my brain felt like it had shifted into overdrive. I was calling all of the doctor offices and the medical center trying to schedule Oli for her appointments, MRI and lab draw. Flipping through my appointment calendar I remembered that I also had to call Nevada Early Intervention Services and schedule an appointment with them. NEIS serves the special needs children in the Las Vegas and surrounding areas that are under the age of 3. After age 3 the children transition into the school district.

No one had recommended that I call NEIS. I just happened to remember referring some of my patients to them while reading off their discharge instructions.

I’m thankful that I knew of them and knew that they might be able to offer us some help. To be honest, I didn’t know exactly what they did. I just knew that when I had a patient going home that might have some developmental delays we told them to call NEIS.

A woman from the front office answered my call and set up an evaluation for the following week. She told me to bring Oliana to the appointment and they would look at her and decide which services she would benefit from.

I hung up the phone and was proud of myself for finally doing something for her instead of just worrying about all of the things that I couldn’t do.

Later that day a woman I worked with contacted me and offered to come out to my house to look at Oli. She was a neonatal nurse practitioner in the NICU I worked at and she also occasionally worked with the pediatric genetic doctor in Las Vegas. She told me that if she came out and did her own evaluation of Oli she might be able to submit it to the doctor and get her in earlier than the 6-9 months that we were told. I was more than happy to comply.

When she came out to the house she began the physical exam. She laid Oli down on a small flowered blanket and began measuring every inch of her body with a little fabric measuring tape. I was not prepared for the onslaught of abnormalities that were revealed to me during that evaluation.

Her little ears were too floppy.

Her eyes were too far apart.

Her eye brows were not level.

The bridge of her petite nose was too wide.

Her nipples were too far apart.

The space between her delicate fingers was too wide. (What? Why does that even matter?)

Her peach fuzz covered head was too small.

Her physical tone was too weak.

The list went on and on….

I just wanted to scream at her.

Stop! Stop! I don’t want to hear any more!

This is my child! My perfect little angel and you are picking her apart!

What child could possibly measure perfectly according to your standards?

Please, just stop!

Leave my baby alone!

But she didn’t stop because I couldn’t yell any of those things. I just let her continue until she was finished and I was completely defeated.

Then she got into her car and left and I picked Oli up and cried.

Mother’s Day Weekend

23 Jan

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” -Anais Nin

After the doctor left my hospital room that day I felt pain like I have never felt pain before. I started questioning things that I have never questioned before and I began to ask the obvious question, “What the hell just happened to me?”

In a mere 10 minutes my entire life had changed.

The worst thing was, I had to be the one to tell my husband. He didn’t even know yet. I had to tell this poor guy, who wanted nothing more than to give his children anything and everything in this life, that there were going to be things he wouldn’t be able to give his daughter.

I was going to have to break his heart like it had never been broken before. Damn that doctor for leaving me with this responsibility!!

As it was, though, I couldn’t really think of anyone else who should tell him. I surely didn’t want that doctor to come back in here with his emotionless tone and his slightly bored attitude. I didn’t want that guy telling him that all his wonderful dreams of showing his daughter the beauties of Desert Mountains and Hawaiian sunsets were never going to happen.

I had to be strong for him.

I had to pretend that I knew we were going to get through this. And I was going to have to do it soon because he had just walked through the hospital room door. He walked in holding my beautiful baby boy and an armful of balloons and flowers.

Because…it was Mother’s Day weekend.

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