The Waiting Game Continues
When Thomas was born, we
were told that preemies tend to go home around their due date.
As Thomas' November 6th due date approached, it became apparent
that he would not be going home that soon.
Things were going well and there were fewer and fewer
concerns. He was gaining weight, gradually improving every day
and looking and acting more and more like a normal baby. The two
key concerns were his eyes and his oxygen requirements.
As is common with extremely premature babies, Thomas had ROP
(Retinopathy of Prematurity). It is thought that the early
exposure of the eyes to oxygen can cause them to mature
improperly (as just a lay person, I may not have this right).
This can cause varying degrees of visual impairment. Fortunately,
many advances are being made in the treatment of ROP.
Thomas, at one point, was scheduled for laser surgery to avoid
a detached retina due to his ROP. Just days before, sufficient
improvement was discovered and the surgery was canceled. Thomas
was seen by a specialist for a short period even after he was
released from the hospital. Fortunately, no lasting vision
problem has been detected as of a year later.
The other concern was his oxygen requirements. Early on,
Thomas' BPD (Bronchopulmonary dysplasia) was treated through
intubation on a respirator. As his lungs matured, he was able to
go off the respirator. However, the respirator and even the CPAP
were a necessary but unnatural means of keeping the lungs
working. After the respirator and CPAP were no longer required,
months of oxygen therapy was necessary to allow the lungs to
mature and heal from the previous treatments.
Again, understand that I am not a doctor, so I may not have
all of this right (any doctors care to comment?).
The goal at this point in Thomas' treatment was to lessen his
oxygen requirements to enable him to go home. Mostly it was a
long waiting game.
Our families and friends were very supportive through this
period, as well as throughout the entire hospitalization and it's
aftermath. Thomas' grandparents visited the NICU as often as they
could, as did his aunts and uncles. Their support was and is
important to us.
Although we were permitted to bring in other visitors, we felt
we should limit visitors to immediate family. We did this both to
expose Thomas to fewer outside germs and also to avoid having to
explain what was happening within the NICU environment. Although
you become accustom to it, first visits to an NICU are shocking.
Most people will not and should not see anything like it.
We also appreciated the camaraderie that formed between us and
many of the other NICU parents. We were asked not to inquire to
much about the other babies, families, etc., but you can't spend
four months some place seeing many of the same faces on a regular
basis without forming some type of relationship.
I remember congratulating parents upon hearing of release
dates, improvements, etc. I also remember some very bad days in
the NICU I don't want to talk about.
Next: Tommy Goes