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Personal Stories ~ From Brad

This is from dad's perspective.

Our Jacob was born by emergency cesarean section the morning of March 7th 2008 at 24 weeks gestation. He weighed 1 lb 13 oz (822 grams) and was immediately resuscitated and rushed to NICU. Thus began the marathon that is NICU.

I would like to pass along some of our experience and pointers for newcomers to the NICU (especially if you are going to be there for a while):

  • It is a terrifying place at first. There is a persistent ringing of bells, and buzzers, and beeps, and flashing lights. At first my head would snap around every time I heard one, whether it was from our baby or someone else's.

  • Trust the nurses and doctors. NICU has ALWAYS drawn the best and the brightest from the field. They are the SEAL Team 6 of medicine. They know which alarms and indicators are important and which ones are not. They are watching closer than you think they are. Remember that they are there to care for your baby, not for you. If something is up and you are in the way, don't be offended if you get pushed out of the way a little.

  • What you think is an emergency may be routine for your nurse. On one of those first days Jacob stopped breathing. At that point the alarms get everyone's attention (I nearly hit the floor). Jason, his nurse, very calmly reached into the giraffe, gently bagged him a few times, and got his airway cleared. It was so routine for him that he didn't tell the doctor. These are normal everyday occurrences for these guys.

  • Be prepared for a rollercoaster ride. Don't let the highs get you too high or the lows get you too low. If you are in NICU as early as we were, there are going to be bad days.

  • Your baby will endure difficult and painful things. Lots of sticks and pokes and harsh medicines. We had 3 tough surgeries. At 24 weeks Jacob couldn't cry yet, but he would he would get that scrunched up cry face. I wished that he could cry out. I wished that they could stick me instead. Nothing anyone can say will make that easier, but I will say this. Jacob is now 4 years old. He remembers none of it. He has no ill effects from any of it. He is alive, and happy, and vibrant because of it. The bottom line is that it was worth it.

  • Get support early and often from wherever you can get it. People want to help, and you should let them. Don't be a hero. There are no medals or extra credit for going it alone. Family, friends, clergy, social workers, involve them all. Most hospitals have a NICU support group and you should be in it. If someone can care for things at home while you are at the hospital let them. At some point you will be angry and you should have someone to scream at. At some point you are going to cry, and you should have someone to cry on. For me, talking with other parents who were in the same boat as us helped the most.

  • Kangaroo care is good medicine for your baby and for you. I said many times after kangaroo care that it felt like Jacob had given me more healing than I had given him. Our doctor would flat order it when Jacob was having a bad day. There is something truly magical about sitting with your baby and watching the monitor show his improvement just through your touch. Plus, it's just nice to feel useful.

  • Lean on your faith, if you don't have faith get some, and if you can't find any use someone else's. They say that there are no unbelievers in a foxhole. I've been in a foxhole and it felt a lot like NICU.

  • Pace yourself. It's so easy to say and so hard to do. By not doing that I managed to land myself in the same hospital. At that point I put my wife in the position of having to run between floors to check on both of us. For whatever reason as parents we feel guilty by not holding a 24 hour a day vigil at the hospital. Go home. Take a day off when you need one. The SEAL team will call you if something is going on. You can call them from home if you want to check on things. You are of no use to anyone if you don't take care of yourself.

As I said before, our story has a happy ending. Jacob is now 4. He is 100% healthy. He left the hospital with oxygen for a couple of weeks, but that was it. He has no ill effects of any kind. If you are at the start of your journey keep hope alive. Miracles happen in NICU.

God bless!

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