13 June 2008

Very Special Care

"Vera's been transferred out of ICU!"

After just 12 days, and a day after receiving her diagnosis, Vera was moved to the Special Care Nursery (SCN).

What would have initially been a moment of rejoicing was now tempered by the news of her diagnosis. Instead of celebrating, we wished she could stay in ICU a little longer. We were afraid that the "intensity" of care for her would drop if she were 'downgraded'.

We needn't have worried. There were apparatus to monitor her heartbeat. Overhead warmers when the ward got too cold. Oxygen "boxes" for placing over her head in the event she had a bout of desaturation (low oxygen intake).

Most importantly, visiting was no longer restricted to lunch and dinner time. We could spend the whole day there if we wanted. Now, we could get near Vera long enough to start getting to know her.
The first thing I did was give her Kangaroo Care. What a sweet term, right? It means carrying your baby skin-to-skin, under your clothes. Just like how a mother Kangaroo carries her baby in a pouch. Even Ian 'kangarooed' Vera. Kangaroo care has been known to help preemies grow better. Newborns get to listen to their mother's reassuring heartbeat and feel the body warmth.

During the 2 weeks in Special Care, we learnt what we needed to know to care for Vera at home. Tube feeding, diapering, bathing. Whenever we were there, we'd take over from the nurses. Slowly, we got the hang of the basics.

The most challenging however, was Tube Insertion. I watched as the nurse inserted the tube into Vera's mouth and into her throat, causing her to choke. I was petrified. You mean I have to do this? I never quite mastered it before we took Vera home. "Ian knows how to do it, I'll leave it to him" I thought.

In Special Care, the care was indeed special. The nurses called each baby by name, and treated them with love and gentleness. Also, Vera had 'friends' here, next to her cot.

There was 'Inspector Brian', a preemie who had spent months in SCN and had grown into a big, chubby toddler. He was always propped upright in bed, surveying everyone, hence his nickname.

Then there was fair, slitty-eyed Shernice, another long-staying preemie, 5 months now in hospital, and about to go home too. She was a chubby toddler too, with characteristic overabundant cheeks of preemies pumped with lots of formula milk.

I will never forget those 2 weeks. Walking down the long aisle towards SCN, bringing expressed milk to Vera, washing our hands with anti-bacterial soap because of MRSA, expressing milk in SCN, watching her oxygen levels on the monitor, worrying whenever it went down.

Looking back, it was a miracle that Vera was even transferred out of ICU. Many T18 babies do not make it out of Intensive Care. Even if they do, they have to be on C-PAP (oxygen breathing aid inserting through the nose). Vera left ICU without any wires or apparatus attached to her.

Finally, a few days before her 1st month, we checked Vera out of hospital. She was coming home.

Home to another brand of Special Care.