LIVING IN THE HOSPITAL PART II
I had just finished speaking with the nurse at the NICU, and I found myself walking back to our hospital room. I’m not afraid to admit that I was now dragging my feet. Not too long ago, my wife, Aba had delivered our son Nathan Ernst Dabel, and everything was picture perfect, but now some few hours later, everything looked grim. You know those moments you have in your life when you walk around and all the colors seemed to be sucked out of life and everything you look out is painted gray. Well, that was one of those moments for me.
When I finally walked into the room, my wife and our family all looked pale. Maybe they had seen the dismal look on my face. I explained to them the situation Nathan was in, just as the NICU nurse had explained it. His blood sugar was extremely low and they had to get him hooked up to the IV and monitor him very closely. If the blood sugar dropped any lower, it would be devastating to Nathan. The nurse had explained that he would be fed every three hours and his blood sugar would be tested before every feeding by pricking certain parts of his heel and placing the blood on a strip. Being the bearer of bad news is the most terrible experience. I did not like it one bit.
Grandparents were allowed to the NICU and no one else. So all three of them got to go and visit Nathan, even though Nathan was very weak, did not cry, and did not move very much. My wife wasn’t healed yet from the C-section and so she couldn’t get out of bed yet to go to see Nathan.
My wife had been given a pumping machine and as soon as she was ready, she began to pump. It was a painful, yet frustrating process for her, because the milk had not started to flow yet, just the very limited yellowish fluid, I forgot the name the nurses had called it. So I quickly adjusted to my role of every three hours of going over to the NICU with the small amount my wife had managed to capture. My wife began to call every drop, ‘gold nuggets’, and she was right, every single drop counted and would make a difference in helping Nathan.
In the morning, I travelled back and forth to the NICU, the kind NICU nurses taught me how to change diapers and feed. So began my regular routine. I would arrive, scrub my hand thoroughly outside for 2 minutes, go inside and hand over the small amount of breast milk my wife had pumped to the nurse, and then watch as she poked Nathan’s heel and squeeze for blood for the test (he would cry every time, because it hurt him, but it hurt me much more just to see him having to go through all this and I was powerless to do anything) and tell me how there was no progress, and then I would be allowed to change his diapers and feed him his bottle. Now the problem was that Nathan was throwing up the milk (not my wife’s breast milk, because there just wasn’t enough of it) the nurses were giving to him, but then it was discovered that he was lactose intolerant and couldn’t hold the milk. He was fine with the very minute amount my wife was pumping, but it just wasn’t enough to help him get better. So a soy milk substance was introduced into the picture and Nathan did not throw it up, but the soy only kept him steady. So back and forth I traveled from the NICU and back to my wife with no signs of improvement in sight.
Then one day, miraculously, my wife’s milk started to flow, and my wife determined to see our son get better, literally became a factory overnight. She took her pumping very seriously and was filling up five to six NICU bottles every three hours for Nathan. Things were looking bright because Nathan was taking the breast milk without any problems and the soy was set aside. The blood sugar numbers rose a little bit. We were all very excited.
My wife got better enough to go and see Nathan, but when she saw all the wires he was attached to, and all the punctured holes in his heels, she broke down and cried. The nurse on schedule on that day did a great job in helping my dad and I encourage her to cheer up and that even though things were far from alright, showed some signs of improvement.
Then just as quickly, Nathan’s blood sugar began to show signs of dropping again. The doctor at the NICU decided to put a certain extra powdered substance in the breast milk to see if that would help the numbers to increase, but still things were not looking as if they were about to get any better.
It wasn’t long after when a nurse took the blood pressure for my wife and found that it had gone pretty high. The doctor quickly spoke to my wife and I, mentioning to us that they’d have to monitor this very closely and that she had to rest. My wife asked for some medication that would help her to relax and sleep, but that didn’t work. Her mind, she explained couldn’t rest, because she was worried for Nathan. The next time the blood pressure was taken, it had risen so high the doctor advised blood pressure medication immediately or she feared a possible stroke or even worse. The blood pressure only showed signs of climbing up even higher. The numbers were so high that my wife and I agreed with the doctor that we’d like to try what she was offering. My wife took it, and the blood pressure went down but not enough. The doctor gave a stronger dose and the blood pressure then reached the safety zone. It was then that the doctor advised for us to go home, because she felt that my wife being here would not allow her mind to rest and that at home in her own bed she would get the rest she needs to lower the blood pressure beyond just the safety zone.
Certain things about my wife, I’m used to by now, and I knew that if we both went back home, her blood pressure would skyrocket just for the fact that we were both so far away from Nathan. I could see it in her eyes and the way that she went silent and did not say much. So I spoke to her and explained that she would go home and my parents would alternate with my mother-in-law to stay with her at the house, but I was going to stay behind. My wife’s eyes brightened at the thought. But she wanted to know where I would sleep if we were signing out of the hospital room. The Head nurse advised me to call the person in charge of the NICU and I did. That is how I was allowed to stay at the waiting area.
That night as my wife left the hospital I looked her straight in the eye and promised her that I would not rest until our son was healthy and ready to go home. I also assured her that I would be in our son’s NICU room every three hours on the dot, and that I would give her detailed updates to our son’s progress. I told her in return, she had to promise me that she would relax her mind and sleep, so she could lower that blood pressure. Since I was so close to our son and should they need anything for him, they would know exactly where I was and could come directly to me and not have to bother her. I could feel her relief, because she knew I was that type of man, once I set my mind to do a thing, I would achieve it, no matter what the cost.
Later that night, long after my wife and I had prayed on the phone for our boy Nathan, I pulled two short chairs together in the waiting area. They were both small chairs but they would have to do. I covered myself with the sheets I had and settled myself for a short nap. My rear end sunk in the area between the two chairs and I had to tighten my stomach muscles so I wouldn’t fall to the ground. But this was my only option for a bed. I pulled the sheets closer to my body as I shivered uncontrollably, it was cold. Hospitals were very cold at night, and my sheets were just not thick enough. I knew this was going to be one of the greatest challenges of my life, but in order to help my wife relax her mind to lower that blood pressure I had to do this. So began my first night of living in the hospital…