May 7th, 2016 by KC

My son Carter Griffith was born December 2013, 3 1/2 months too soon.

At 2:30 on a Wednesday morning I rolled over in bed and felt a gush! I called out to my husband and said “I think my water broke! … Can that happen!?” I knew it was a stupid question, of course it can happen but it shouldn’t!

I called my OB’s office and was assured that it wasn’t likely that my water broke but to call again in the morning if I still felt like I was leaking fluid. I work at a hospital and so I drove to work the next morning and called my OB again with no change. I was told to go to the childbirth center to be checked out, just to be on the safe side. I was sure my water had broken but I was hopeful. This was my first baby so I was in unfamiliar territory. I was sure there was some simple explanation.

Through my entire experience of that next week I never received bad news but I did receive a lot of ‘not so good news’. Starting with: my water had indeed broken but there was no sign of contractions or dilating. Great! So do I need to go home for the day or am I okay to go back to work? Now I’m truly not a stupid person but I was very naive and very hopeful and no one wanted to give me bad news. I was finally clearly informed that I needed to be transferred to another hospital where I would remain until my due date 3 1/2 months away.

Several hours and phone calls later arrangements were made and my husband and Mom were by my side helping me get settled into my room at the University hospital. Later that evening someone came to take me to ultrasound. I was surprised that she didn’t bring the wheelchair into the room and figured she must have it parked out in the hall. When I didn’t see it in the hall I assumed we must not be going far. It wasn’t far but still I wasn’t exactly sure I was allowed to move around, or if I was I wasn’t sure how much. I didn’t want to be a difficult patient and so I only raised my eyebrow at it… Looking back I should have insisted on being wheeled down to ultrasound.

All the test results were still promising. I would just have to wait out the rest of my pregnancy counting ceiling tiles and singing the song that never ends. I knew every hour he could stay in my womb mattered and I was happy to do it if it meant a strong healthy baby.

Sometime during that first sleepless night my world crumbled just a little bit more; in the small hours of the morning the baby turned and compressed his cord. His heart rate dropped and nurses ran in to put me on oxygen and turn me to one side. His heart rate returned but continued to drop dramatically every 30-45 minutes. With each drop I was informed that he may need to be delivered soon. My husband was at work over an hour away and dropped everything to race there as fast as he could just in case. My Mom did the same but she was only 20 minutes away. I was still optimistic, I had to be or I would have seen this for the crisis it really was, I was sure his heart rate would go up and stay up and we could go on with the pregnancy; it simply had to, I was only 26 weeks pregnant. My Mom arrived and I was told that as soon as the OR was ready they would be taking me for the c-section. I began to shiver.

My son Carter was born that morning. He weighed only 1lb 11oz. He was ventilated, stabilized and taken to the NICU. The rest of the day was a blur. My husband arrived and he and my Mom went to be with Carter. He was beautiful and perfect… just tiny. I got to see pictures but had to wait until I could sit in the wheelchair before I could see him. Finally after what felt like all day I got to go to the NICU and meet my son. I rested my hand gently on him and softly sang a lullaby.

And that’s how our delicate fairy tale went for six days. I spoke to him, sang to him, learned how to change a preemie diaper. He graduated from the ventilator to a c-pap. We got tears of joy when he finally pooped. I held him gently to my bare chest and sang to him some more.

On the sixth day he had been having more and more brady episodes and so they switched out his c-pap to NAVA. Anytime he held his breath for four seconds he would get a puff of oxygen. Still.. it wasn’t bad news.. just not so great news. It was still a great day in the NICU.

Early the next morning we got a call with more not so great news. Carter had even more brady episodes during the night and had to be reintubated. We raced to the NICU to be there in time for rounds… in time for everything to go horribly wrong.

First his blood chemistry was a little off, then his abdominal x-ray looked suspicious. Quickly more tests were ordered along with another x-ray. There was free air in his belly and his blood was becoming acidic indicating dying tissue. He was being prepped for transfer to Seattle Children’s Hospital for surgery and we were told he had a 50/50 chance. All I could think of was my God that’s the flip of a coin!

Family was called, consents and transfer papers were signed, and I was about to ask a question when suddenly I heard the words … CODE BLUE. Someone stood in front of me to block my view as they did chest compressions on my tiny baby. They quickly had him stabilized enough for transfer and we raced to Children’s.

About a dozen nurses and specialists crowded his giant NICU room while my husband and I were allowed to wait off to the side just out of the way. They worked on him for a long time hooking him up to several IV’s and machines. Social workers introduced themselves, waiting, offers of juice and crackers, more forms were signed, and more waiting. Several doctors came to explain what NEC is and what they might be able to do about it. His acidosis was bad and they needed another x-ray. More waiting. The docs looked at a computer screen just out of our view and shook their heads. The docs gathered everyone in a family conference room. Someone had called our pastor who joined us.

Carter had extensive NEC and the acidosis made him unable to clot. Lifesaving surgery was no longer an option at that time. They would insert drains to decompress his belly and if his blood chemistry improves he may become a candidate for surgery. We were finally allowed to see him. He had four IV’s. The ventilator was breathing for him. His arms were limp at his sides. His tiny belly was horribly discolored and blown up tight like a balloon with a drain on each side. I held his little hand, told him everyone was here and that he was doing such a good job of fighting.

They didn’t sugar coat it, this was very bad news. Everything about what they said, how they said it, their body language and facial expressions… Carter wasn’t going to survive this.

While in the family conference room praying with our pastor Carter had to be resuscitated again.

The pastor came back into the room with us and with tears in his eyes he baptized our son. With my husband and I already crowding the bedside the charge nurse quickly gave into our request that other family members be allowed to join us in the room. Everyone took a turn holding his hand and talking to him. I prayed to God that His Will be done and that if it was His Will that Carter should be called to Heaven that it be quick, peaceful, and painless.

Early that evening, not long after our prayers, Carter’s oxygen level went down further and further. Soon his heart rate began to drop too. My husband and mom pulled me aside just as they began his third round of CPR. Knowing our wishes, the doctor told me that it was time to hold him and my husband gave the order to stop.

They placed our son in my arms as family surrounded us. I rocked him and sang the lullaby he had come to know. I thanked him for being our son and told him how proud we are of him. I told him that he did good and that he should go to Jesus now. I sang a few minutes more. The doctor told us that he was gone and then led us in prayer.

Everyone in the room took a turn holding him and saying their goodbyes. I helped the nurse take out all the tubes, I washed his body, and wrapped his body in a clean blanket. We held him for a few minutes more and then handed him to the nurse. We kissed him one last time and said our goodbyes and then forced ourselves to walk out of the room.

Numb with shock we somehow made it home. We slowly survived the first day and then the next…

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