My youngest son, Tristan, was diagnosed with Bacterial Meningitis when he was 6 weeks old. He was admitted to the local hospital but after 24 hours his condition deteriorated drastically and he had to be rushed to another hospital which had a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
These are my words of my experience as his mother.
16 June 2013
It was such a panic. Alarms were going off everywhere and what felt like a hundred people came running into the ward, pushing me away from my son as he had stopped breathing. A huge oxygen mask was placed over his face and the medical team were talking urgently about Tristan’s condition. I didn’t know what was going on – tears were streaming down my face and I was thinking “is this the time I’m going to lose my baby? Is he really not going to make it?”.
The doctors made the decision to get Tristan transferred to a larger, better equipped hospital with an NICU as their machines were showing that his O2 levels were dangerously low. Tristan was giving up. He was so tired and his little body couldn’t cope.
A doctor spoke to me quietly while Tristan was being put into an incubator. I couldn’t go in the ambulance with him as the retrieval team needed the space. I needed to say goodbye to my baby just in case he didn’t survive the short journey.
I find the next 30 minutes of this story really difficult to put into words so I will move on to when we arrived at the children’s hospital.
Tristan wasn’t doing too well when we arrived but he was still with us. He was rushed straight into NICU. I was asked to wait in the parent’s room whilst he was being settled. I didn’t want to leave him again and I certainly didn’t want to be in this dark cold room, all alone.
I am not a particularly religious person but I did the only thing I thought was right. I got down on my knees and, sobbing, begged God to save my baby.
One extremely long hour later, a nurse came to get me and explained that Tristan had been put on life support as the stress of breathing for himself was too much for him but, for now, he was stable. The nurse apologised for the length of time it had taken to come and get me but when she took me into NICU I understood why.
The heart-wrenching cries of the parents of a baby in the next cubicle tore through to my very soul. Their baby had gone to the angels. Was it right to selfishly be thankful that they weren’t my screams? That God had listened to me?
The first few hours went by in a blur. Tristan was in a plastic crib with wires and tubes all over his little body. There was a nurse at his side with everything linked in to her computer. This nursing is 24/7.
I sat in a leather recliner on the other side of his crib. This is were I slept, ate and pumped. I longed to hold my baby, to nurse him to my breast instead of pumping every 3 hours. My breasts were leaking every time I looked at him. He was so small and innocent. Why couldn’t it be me lying there? What had this 6 week old baby done to deserve this start to life?
There are two things that I will never be able to get out of my head. Firstly, the machine beeps. They were almost therapeutic; I still hear them in my dreams at night. Secondly, the smell of the hand sanitizer – there was a bottle of it on every surface. Every time I smell it I have to hold on to my heart like its going to break just remembering our time in NICU.
Tristan was on life support for a week. The doctors did their rounds and told me that his vital signs were looking good and that they were going to try him on high flow oxygen. I was so scarred. What if he didn’t cope with it? What if he crashed again?
Tristan was doing better on the high flow and his stats were climbing back up with every hour that passed. The doctors lowered the level of oxygen, meaning that Tristan was almost breathing for himself. That was until the doctors did their rounds again and poked and prodded him. His stats dropped like crazy and there was panic all over again! High flow went back up and the doctor decided not to touch him again and to leave him be to fight his battle. He needed rest to get stronger.
Another week went past and each day the oxygen levels were dropped. I was so happy when I got my first cuddle after days and days of not holding my precious baby.
Tristan is such a fighter. So strong-willed, even at 6 weeks old. After 2 weeks he came off all the oxygen and we were ready to leave NICU and head to the high dependency ward for a couple of nights. He had his feeding tube removed and was back breast feeding like a champion. But our greatest gift – he was smiling again! I can’t honestly tell you what I want to cry at the most when I retell this story. Almost losing him or that first amazingly infectious smile.
Now aged 3, he is determined that nothing will get in his way. Nothing is unachievable for him. He is my hero.
I cannot thank enough the staff at both hospitals who looked after Tristan as if he were their only patient. Their dedication knows no bounds and we are forever in their debt.
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