Updated: Jan 31, 2021
Who knew I would be familiar with the terms “brady” or “desat?” Our time in the NICU was such a learning experience. I spent all of my days in the hospital talking with the neonatologists, nurses, respiratory therapists, and eventually speech therapists. I watched closely so I would know what Laila’s oxygen level needed to be at any given time. I made sure her isolette was warm enough and that she was being attended to at regular intervals. She spent approximately a month and a half on the ventilator. The wonderful, miraculous part was that she was recommended to use a brand-new machine called NAVA (Neurally Adjusted Ventilatory Assist) which was a more controlled method of providing oxygen to Laila. It was new technology, so she was the first baby in the unit to use it. That was an answer to my prayers because I was told that traditional ventilators were sometimes too forceful and could potentially lead to lung scarring. I was so grateful that we were chosen to pilot this new way of delivering care. Laila did well during this time. She was able to come off of NAVA and transitioned to the bubble CPAP. I was a nervous wreck as I watched her little body work hard to bring up her heart rate and oxygen desaturation. It took about a week for her to maintain her numbers, but she eventually showed herself to be the fighter I already knew she was.
Laila’s nurses were a great encouragement during this time. They took care of her as if she were their own. I hadn’t had very much experience with babies until I had Laila, so I watched them closely. I was eager to give her a bath, check her temperature, and eventually, breast and bottle feed her. Aside from the clinical care they provided, the nurses also truly made it feel like a home away from my actual home. They provided a listening ear for me to process my feelings and most had words of wisdom to offer. One of the nurses encouraged me to begin journaling to record my experience. I wrote down my thoughts and reflected on all the emotions flooding through me.
The specialists involved in Laila’s care were also an important part of her development. I developed a wonderful relationship with the respiratory therapists who managed her oxygen. They recommended when she should progress to another level from the ventilator to the CPAP and eventually to the nasal cannula. They were always willing to answer any questions that I had and to provide reassurance of Laila’s progress. At some point toward the end of our stay, we were also introduced to speech therapists who worked with me in feeding Laila. They explained that the process of breathing, sucking the nipple, and swallowing was complicated and involved continued growth and maturity on Laila’s part. I enjoyed breastfeeding and felt that it was a special bonding time between the two of us. The speech therapists were there to make sure that Laila could receive nourishment in the safest possible way.
As I look back over my time there, I realize that I was blessed to have a dedicated team whose goal was to make sure my baby had the best care possible to ensure her complete growth and development. I never witnessed any of the health care providers having a bad day or coming into work with a bad attitude. I’m sure they may have had personal issues at the time, but every single person on the health care team gave their all in a kind, compassionate way. Parents of premature infants have enough to worry about without adding the strain of incompetent or unpleasant staff. It was comforting to be able to ask questions and express concerns whenever they arose. I can look back at my village with gratitude and love, knowing that they were all part of God’s plan.