A stint in any hospital for any reason is a wonderful opportunity to connect with human nature. So it was when I spent a week in a neonatal intensive care unit with my newborn son, and I marvel at how this environment taught me lessons about perseverance, hope, faith and charity.
Keep in mind that even though my young son was carefully monitored and was thought to perhaps require life-saving cardiac surgery, he was for the most part stable and larger/older than most babies on the unit. So I have the luxury (by God’s Grace) to be able to reflect on my experience without the heavy heart of many moms and dads on the unit.
One mom, for instance, shared that she had been on the unit with her newborn for 3 months. After 4 days of taking baby home from hospital when he was first born, she awoke to find him lethargic and blue-tinged. An undetected heart failure brought her to a place where she has nearly lost him 5 times. When finally she accepted that this child was God’s own, she was ready to accept, as well, whatever was to come with fortified strength. She finds comfort in pumping milk for him even though she cannot feed him and appreciates all the time she has spent with her dear one, getting to know and enjoy him during the light and dark days. While I was in hospital, she lost a neighbour, a young dad serving in Afghanistan. The strength and faith of this young mom amazes me.
And then there is the first-time mom who has a full-term baby with half a heart…a problem detected in utero. She shared that she was under a lot of pressure to abort this child but refused. She and her husband have been looking forward to beginning their family for 8 years. This child continues to improve with modern surgical procedures and advanced medicine.
A chaplain on the ward describes situations where people of no faith background desperately seek spiritual consolation and hope during these times when all that remains is hope. So like the paschal mystery that we all celebrate during this season, out of suffering comes our greatest prize. How many miracles of renewed faith has this person witnessed?
A wonderful, caring, family-centered and competent staff is a marvel to behold. I am blessed to receive care here. Yet despite their professionalism and all they are doing for me, I am quick to judge on the basis of a few scant words and smiles or lack thereof. When you are living at the bedside of a wee one, it’s important who is there with you. Is she/he smiling, friendly, open to my requests about holding, feeding my baby? And, of course, doctors, housekeepers ,x-ray, pharmacy all get my scrutiny! I have been wrong about people. They know what they are doing and they do, indeed, care even if I don’t ”feel” they do at first glance.
Having said that, I do, indeed know my baby better than they and sometimes it will take them part of a shift or so to catch up to the history and the news. In the meantime, I am there to fill them in and continue to sooth and ease whatever may face my Francis this day.
A final mini-miracle to make our stay here positive…we were waiting for the ductus valve to close in my little guy’s heart. An echo cardiogram was done everyday to monitor it’s closure. In the event his already narrowed aorta could not handle the flow of blood to the rest of his body, emergency surgery would be required immediately. During what turned out to be our last echo, the operator stopped midway in his tracks, said something like, ”oh, that’s interesting” what could this mean?
I immediately began to pray the Hail Mary over and over…I couldn’t find words. The technician says he thinks the ductus closed while he was watching! Wow, a weight had been lifted. After 24 hours more of observation and data collection, Francis and I were air lifted to our home hospital. We will continue to be monitored in our home province as he does have another heart defect that will require surgery when he is older and bigger( 40% of kids with Down syndrome need this surgery so it is not unusual for our guy). But this is a safe, family friendly place and it will be good to have other future needs met here.
Blessings galore! Many praying souls and kindnesses during our difficult time make us realize that we can be confident that the resurrection has indeed already happened. All will be well.
Copyright 2012 Cathy Craig