Tag Archives: denial

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?

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.

What did he just tell me?

22 Jan

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Seth left the next afternoon to go pick up my son Kekoa (he was 18 months old) from his Grandma’s house where he had been staying. The pediatrician, who was supposed to come and look at Oli in the morning, still had not shown up. A little while after Seth left, the doctor walked through the door.

“I’m just here to take a look at your baby.”

I sit up in the hospital bed anxiously awaiting his assurance that everything is fine. “Ok. I’m kind of worried about her eyes because she hasn’t opened them yet. I think they’re just swollen, you know because I had been in pre term labor awhile and I’m sure that stressed her out and probably caused some swelling, but I’m sure she’ll open them soon. Maybe later today or tomorrow. Do you think? I’m sure there’s nothing wrong. They’re just swollen. Right?”

He just looks at me like he’s mildly bored and somewhat irritated because I am rambling at this point. I tend to ramble and talk really fast when I’m nervous.

“Are you going to look at her eyes?” I ask. I am quickly losing patience with his non-committal attitude.

He is looking everywhere else besides her eyes. Her feet, legs, tummy, arms, nose, mouth. Taking his sweet time at it too, I must say. I just wanted to scream at him “TELL ME NOTHING IS WRONG WITH HER EYES YOU BIG JERK!!”

Finally he tries to open her eyes. Oli starts screaming her head off like he is trying to rip her eyelids apart. Which is essentially exactly what he was doing because they were literally fused together. After trying this for a minute he puts the blanket back over her, straightens up, looks at me and says,

“Well, I think she has either really small eyes, or no eyes at all and she will be completely blind. Microphthalmia is what it is called. Do you have any questions?”

My mouth is now gaping open, tears are pooling in my eyes, and I’m looking back at him with a mixture of astonishment and offence. Do I have any questions? Well let me see… I guess I have two. Where did you get your medical license and where do you live so I can come rip your heart out while you are sleeping. Like you just ripped out mine.

Did I have any questions? What a dumb question. Of course I had questions but, at that point I couldn’t even remember my own name let alone think of a way to put together a question out of the millions of thoughts racing through my head.

“I don’t know. Have you ever seen this before?”

“Once. 15 years ago. A little boy that had Fraisers Syndrome. We’ll have to check her kidneys. She might not have any kidneys.” He answers with a blank, emotionless expression.

Again I am staring at him with my mouth open. Did he just say what I think he said? No kidneys? That means death right? I mean, I am a nurse and I’m pretty sure no kidneys means death. Did he just tell me she might die?

“Ok then. I’ll order some tests and we’ll let you know.”

With that he promptly walked out of my hospital room leaving me alone with my new baby that I now thought might die.

Something is wrong

22 Jan

Right after Oli was born the neonatologist I worked with, that had attended her delivery upon my request, took her over to the warmer to check her out. At 35 weeks there is always a small chance that the baby’s lungs will not be fully developed. Oli’s lungs seemed perfectly fine. She was lying on the warmer, pink and screaming away. The doctor looked her over carefully.

“She looks perfect. Good job Shannon. Let me know if you need anything else.” He smiles at me quickly before washing his hands and leaving the room.

After he was gone the nurse placed her on my chest. I really didn’t notice anything unusual about how she looked at first. After about 10 minutes I did think that it was strange that she wouldn’t open her eyes. My son had opened his eyes right away after he was born. Oli seemed to have hers tightly squeezed shut. I quickly ignored the small nagging feeling in my chest. The feeling that had all of a sudden returned. Sneaking its way through my heart.

Something is wrong with her.

After about a half an hour the nurse took her back to the nursery to clean her up, give her her vaccines and put medication in her eyes. These are things that the hospital does with all newborns. Seth went with the nurse to watch over our new daughter. A little while later he came back and told me that she was a little bit cold so they had placed her under a warmer to get her temperature up. Then he said something that made that nagging feeling grow a little bit stronger.

“The nurse couldn’t get her eyes open to put the eye drops in. She said that she is concerned that her eyes may still be fused shut.” He is looking at me with a significant amount of fear in his eyes.

“What? That doesn’t make any sense Seth. Baby’s eyes stop being fused after about 24-25 weeks. She’s 35weeks! No. They’re not fused shut. They’re just swollen. I’m sure they will be fine in the morning.”

“Well, maybe. But the nurse is going to call her pediatrician right away in the morning to come and look at her. I’m sure you’re right. They’re probably just swollen.” He looks slightly more relieved relying on my medical knowledge of newborns.

Deep down I knew that something was not right with her eyes. I knew that she should have opened them or at the very least the nurse should have been able to open them. I had to ignore those feelings though. I had to make myself believe that she was fine. I went to sleep early that morning after the nurses brought Oli back to the room. But before I did I sent a little prayer to heaven. The first of many prayers for my sweet girl that went unanswered.

Please open your eyes baby girl. Please open them and look at me.

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