I remember how boring Tuesdays always were. Honestly, when I think of how all this started, that's the first thing I think of. Wake up. Go to work. Come home. Eat dinner. Put the kids to bed. Boring. It was my sixth pregnancy...routine, you know? Been there, done that...or so I thought.
A Sudden Arrival
It was the tearing pain that woke me up that Tuesday night. Terrified, I woke my husband and ran to the bathroom to see bright red pools of blood in the toilet and on the floor. I was only beginning my eighth month. This shouldn't be happening and there was so much blood and pain! Rushing to the hospital, we were to find out that I'd had a placental abruption. An emergency c-section was performed to save my life and that of my unborn baby. The baby would be born premature. Her birth was anti-climatic. No cries, no tears, no pictures, no shouts of joy. We actually had to ask the baby's sex. A baby girl. Baby Madeline. Maddie.
Maddie was immediately admitted to the hospital's NICU. She was hooked up to monitors, breathing apparatus and IV catheters. We were given encouraging information such as how she seemed to be doing pretty well considering the prematurity and abruption and to expect her to be in the hospital until her "normal" due date. That was 7 weeks!
Things Get More Complicated
Slowly, over the next 5 days we were allowed to touch and sometimes hold our tiny bundle who by this time only weighed 3 1/2 pounds. Her life literally fit in the palm of my hands. On the sixth day, April Fool's Day, Maddie took a bad turn. The nurses had pulled back on feeding her, she was not taking foods and her belly was distending. Something was very wrong. Maddie was diagnosed with necrotizing entercolitis, or NEC. Her intestines were compromised due to prematurity and could not tolerate the feedings. This is fairly common in premature babies but her case was different. Worse. I was told she had to be immediately air-evac'd to Phoenix Children's Hospital NICU.
My husband and I arrived at PCH to wait. And wait. And wait. We finally spoke with Dr. McMahon, the surgeon in charge of Maddie's case. She was very warm, compassionate and honest with us. Devastatingly honest. Maddie's NEC had cause bowel perforations; little holes in her colon. The colon was dead and would have to be removed and perhaps all of her intestine as well. If this happened, we would need to prepare for every parent's worst fear. Again, we waited and put our baby girl's life in Dr. McMahon's hands.
Maddie underwent surgery that night to remove the dead portions of her intestine. By the grace of God, only her colon was necrotized and had to be removed. She would have a stoma and would wear a bag while she healed. If the prognosis was good, one day she would be re-attached and would look and function normally.
This was the beginning of what would be a six week stay at PCH. Through every high and low, the doctors, nurse practitioners, staff and volunteers were there for our family. They celebrated every step forward and encouraged us on every step back. Still, though, I had begun to lose faith that I'd ever bring my baby home.
New Hope for Mother's Day
Amy, the nurse practitioner on duty that Mother's Day, May 10, 2009. Amy was secretly on a mission. She was going to give me the best gift ever. Just as our family was getting ready to head over to the hospital, I got a call from PCH. It was Amy. She asked if I had some time. "Time for what?" I asked. "Time to come and get your baby. It's time she went home with you. Today." Seriously, the best Mother's Day gift EVER!
Maddie flourished at home. In July 2009, she did get her re-attachment surgery at PCH. Dr. McMahon did the surgery, too. She will never have to wear a bag again!!! Although she'll always face some challenges, she grows stronger, smarter and more beautiful every day.
Today, Maddie is three years old. With the exception of being smaller than kids her age, no one would ever guess her rough start in life. I give every single bit of credit to Phoenix Children’s Hospital and staff. These are words parents should never hear or know what they mean: Intraventricular hemorrhage, bilirubin, PIC line, Liver Function Test, Retinopathy of Prematurity. But if you do, I sincerely hope your child is lucky enough to be a patient at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.