Life After Birth - part 2

As I awoke later that morning after just a few hours of sleep, I had a million questions running through my mind.

What was wrong with Gabrielle? How long would we need to be in hospital? What was the next step? How soon could we see the doctors that day? What tests were they planning on doing?

Grateful for my years of navigating the hospital system and dealing with doctors and nurses for work, at least this side of things didn’t daunt me. My main objective, do all that I could to get us out of there ASAP.

This may sound counterintuitive to most people who are likely wondering why wouldn’t I be glad to be in hospital with access to doctors and healthcare professionals who could help look after Gabrielle?

Whilst I’m very grateful for our healthcare system and know it has a place in society, I have also seen how many hospitals around the country operate and this didn’t give me much confidence. I would have to be switched on at all times, never letting my guard down. This in itself was what came to exhaust me in the ensuing weeks.

Those first few days in hospital were a blur of new faces, names and navigating my way around the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) ward. I had to familiarise myself with where to go for things like: new bottles, clean linen, towels for showering, offices to complete paperwork, laundry services...the list goes on. Over 2 weeks passed before I even went down to the ground level entrance of the hospital!

Each day brought new specialists, new names to remember and more tests or test results to chase. I quickly began keeping a log of what was happening and any questions I had, as there was generally only a 10 minute window where you could catch the doctors on their morning rounds. You knew they would come past somewhere between 8.30-10am so I was very careful not to leave the room during this period in case I missed my opportunity to question them and gain insight into their thoughts on Gabrielle’s situation.

To be honest I don’t think the doctors and nurses were used to a parent who was always present and asking questions. They too quickly learnt that I had experience in the medical industry as I was able to understand their lingo. At first this caught them off guard and for some, I could see my comprehension annoyed them. Most however, came to respect and include me in discussions they would have with the team about Gabrielle.

I was still expressing every 3 hours and making sure I was present for all of Gabrielle’s ‘appointments’ when specialists came past. We were sharing a room with another baby, and the hospital has strict rules that you’re not to speak to, ask questions about or even look at another baby. This was deviating and hard as for the week we shared that room, no one came to visit him.

I was lucky to pop out to the toilet when I could and most days didn’t even entertain the idea of a shower until well into the afternoon. If I wasn’t speaking with the doctors, I was trying to hold and be with Gabrielle as much as possible. There was no time or anywhere for me to rest (the bed was packed up during the day remember)!

Now taking Gabrielle in and out of her cot for a cuddle was no easy task either. Finally able to hold her after 24 hours in the new hospital, this meant dropping a side of the cot and making sure all the leads were untangled then positioning the chair close enough as the leads remained attached at all times.

For the month we were at hospital Gabrielle only left her cot on two occasions I can recall, one to have her MRI downstairs and when they did her final physical assessment a few days before we were allowed to leave. Aside from that she was tethered to her cot and a 1m radius, like a dog to a post.

The fact she didn’t leave her room meant I seldom did. After a week, her situation seemed to stabilise and the doctors couldn’t find anything conclusive. More tests were needed but we were able to move to the special care ward next door. A new room, new babies and different nurses.

Whilst here, Gabrielle had a monumental antibiotic overdose which resulted in hospital protocols being revised and apologies coming from the top as it was simply unacceptable and completely avoidable (especially when the doctor and 2 nurses needed to sign off before dosing this particular medication). I was ropable and also angry at myself for not monitoring her drug chart more closely. It really wasn’t acceptable and I made sure my feelings were heard on this matter.

Unfortunately this relocation didn’t last long as on Mother’s Day, of all days, I was enjoying a rare longer dinner in the parents tea room as the whole family had come in to share this day with us (including our midwife who was now like family). It was lovely, we had presents and cupcakes and for a moment it didn’t feel like we were in hospital. But then I had this sinking feeling as Gabrielle wasn’t able to be with us and was by herself back in her cot. The reason why I had become a mother wasn’t even able to share in my first Mother’s Day celebration. It just didn’t feel right. On top of this I just felt I had to get back to see her so I excused myself and left, planning to come back...

But when I got back, the nurse that was with her was becoming increasingly concerned. Gabrielle’s oxygen saturation levels were dropping consistently too low. She decided to call the doctors to alert them and by the time they arrived she was needing some oxygen support. Another apnoea episode sent her back to NICU and back onto oxygen. We still had no answers but here we were, Mother’s Day night, transferring back to intensive care unit. Another devastating outcome and setback just when I was getting hopeful that we may be getting closer to going home, those hopes now shattered!

To be continued...

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