Monday, August 04, 2008

The Story of Isaac, part 6

But a broken heart is a strange thing. See, grace truly is what we pretty much think it is, and then something large goes down, and then grace becomes something more... and what we knew is still the same truth, but different too.

So, when Isaac almost dies right in front of me, Chris and I, we find ourselves in the shelter of the Kingdom of God. Four touch-and-go days later, we get a report. His blood oxygen levels have unexpectedly stabilized at day one levels. And we get to stare a doctor in the eye and ask him for an explanation we know he can't give... Imagine beholding the glory of God in the stuttering of a UCSD research physician. God brought healing supernaturally. Hard time. Rad.

We stand on the edge of summer. One that would be filled with constant fluctuations, monitoring, lung function, tests, brain scans, heart tests, muscle therapy. When a baby is too immature to digest food, then what? Well, see, you pray. And the nurses, they feed one drop at a time hoping that a little something in the GI tract will lightly stimulate absorption.

It gets scary when we learn about gut-death. Turns out, too much food in a non-working stomach can kill preemie stomach tissue. Its like trying to make his organs do something theyre not ready for on a circulatory-system-infrastructure built for tissue development, the tissue runs out of oxygen if you ask it to digest anything it dies. Gotta remember, he wasnt planning on digesting anything for another three months.

Something a nurse told me on day one. Provided he makes it through the summer, the progress will always be two steps forward, and one step back.

Miracle after miracle, the summer will go on. Big, huge celebration, when he can finally keep a few milliliters of milk down. Big step for a courageous little man. Boris the nurse, our favorite Russian of the NICU, gives him the nickname Bugs as while sleeping he is snoog-asa-books-ina-rook (read: snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug). The next milestone is just ahead, looking for a kind of weight-gain inertia. Snowball growth. Bigger makes stronger which makes healthier, which makes bigger and stronger Parades and confetti and all, comes when his little frame hits the 1000 gram mark. 2.2 pounds.

The Story of Isaac, part 5

Three nights sleeping on a lobby floor.

Chris BP eventually stops spiking. So she gets her own room. Tennis is on the t.v. The nurse makes her turn it off. Every serve causes her BP to jump.
Its easy to pray in these times. Grace is, there's no words, overwhelming? You literally burn it as fuel for existence. I cant spend the night in the room, and so sleep again in the lobby. The night staff realizes that visiting hours mean nothing. Recovering from a c-section is harder than I thought, but in hindsight, it makes sense. You try even sitting up in bed, after getting sawn in half, and having a baby cut out of your stomach. Chris gets her first shower, refreshing. They remove the drain from her side and stitch the holes closed. Shes a rockstar. Its Sunday, were scheduled for discharge tomorrow morning. They're telling us were leaving the hospital, and Chris has yet to see her baby.

Prayer chain update: Isaac is stable. Chris is coming home Monday. Specifics: Pray for Isaacs recovery, that his lungs would fully recover and that there is no brain damage from the hemorrhage. Pray for Chris recovery from c-section and for her insulin levels to return to normal and for her BP to continue to drop.

Last Tuesday we were driving along the coast. Its Monday morning, and we stop by for Chris first visit to Isaac nerves. Theres that thing inside us that runs from uncertainty and newness when you arent sure what youre going to encounter. She pushes through it, and in this case the rewards are huge when this scene comes on so strong, we experience the presence of Jesus himself. Let me tell you, it hits so hard, your heart is a non-issue, it doesnt stand a chance, it just breaks.

The Story of Isaac, part 4

Friday May 28th, 2004.

Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit. NICU. Its pronounced Nick-u.

The hours that Chris is asleep are spent watching over Isaac. Meeting cheerful nurses, consulting with doctors, trying to witness to our social worker. The family sees Isaac. I run out of clothes and begin to get fragrant. UCSD Hillcrest is about 35 minutes from our home God is truly our Great Physician. Hes given me everything I need to keep it together for the last 4 days. Moment by moment I'm sustained as needed, composure sometimes, other times, tears.

On the trip home I lose it so bad I almost crash my car.

The visitors begin.

Mrs. Bentley and I walk into the lobby and I run her through the prep that Ive now gone through several dozen times name, date, relationship to patient, sticker, scrubdown. But this time I learn the hard way, one more question of the lobby nurses needs be regular, Is Isaac Harrell undergoing any procedures at this time?

We roll into the NICU and wander over to Isaacs spot in the room. His monitor bells explode - beep, beep, bongbongbong! Several doctors and a nurse run to his bed. A nurse puts her hand in my chest and suggests we come back later.

As we walk out I see a tube forced down his throat, they begin breathing for him by pumping a bag on the end of the tube We leave, with confusion and, I'll never know why, no fear.

Chris is dignified as ever, and stubborn. Wont use a bedpan for her life. Her BP still wont steady so shes shipped to another floor for 24 hour direct-nurse care. She shares a room with a delusional man who keeps pleading for a drink of water, some poor chump who tried to off himself by drinking bleach, and later a moaning woman whose leg is destroyed car crash, so we talk about buying a Volvo.

Later, we find that Isaac hemorrhaged - his lungs filled with blood and collapsed. Several minutes without oxygen. These things happen when babies are born too early. The word comes, Hes touch and go for now. We caught him in his last minute. We wont know if his lungs are still okay for at least another week or two. We had to give him seven doses of surfactant after pumping the blood out of his lungs. We wont know about brain damage until August. Some babies that go through this, never recover - they never come back.

Isaac isnt even 24 hours old.

The Story of Isaac, part 3

Thursday May 27th, 2004 continued...

Several cell phones are calling different churches, Prayer chains explode.

I am sent back to our delivery room. Only thing delivered there were ice chips and later on some bad jello. Friends had decorated the room with pineapples, dvds to watch on a computer, and about 25 handmade get-well cards from an elementary school class our friend teaches, innocent care is sweet. Half-hour later Chris is rolled into the room with a drain in her side, nurses in tow Shes asleep.


Chris needs quiet. A doc pops in to invite me to come down and visit Isaac for the first time. He made it out of the O.R. They were able to stabilize him, making him one of the three-fourths who so pass the first test. Walk up to yet another door which Ive yet to pass through, Isaac is on the other side. Hit the bell, the door clicks and I'm allowed into a small white lobby with a windowed desk. More security than any bank Ive been in. Sign here, name, date, relationship to patient. Parent sticker, scrubdown, walk through the next door backwards so as to touch nothing... I know nothing of what I'm about to see. A nursery, full of horrifically sick babies, some only two or three pounds, monitor bells and wires and nurses everywhere. Isaac is stable, and weighs in at 675 grams... 1.5 lbs, hes one of the smallest there.

Emotions dont even register. Grace. Shock? Not yet. Just peace and grace. Tears? Not yet. Just awe. Our great physician is taking care of more than I realize. In the middle of this storm, I cannot see reality as it is, I later learn, I don't need to, but God's fingerprints are everywhere.

Surfactant. Its the stuff in soap that makes it slippery. Turns out its the stuff that keeps our lungs from drying out, sticking, and collapsing. Isaacs little frame wont make any for a while, so the docs give him some artificially while the nurses hold their breath.

Im told, You cannot touch him. His skin is too immature. Hes so small, I didn't even think to. A nurse explains, Hes too small Pressure gives rise to a thousand questions, more stats give little comfort... One doc sets the tone for me, If he makes it through the summer, hell likely have no less than 3 infections during his stay here, so its something to get used to now. At least he isnt screwing with my head, giving me hope and all. for an incubator, it would only get in the way... if something happens at this stage, they need to get to him quickly.

He wont be out of the woods until September. If were lucky, he might come home sometime in October. Next week he was supposed to begin the third trimester in the womb. Bones and skin, arms smaller than my fingers, hands smaller than my thumb

They say, The first 24 hours will be telling.