Continuing with my recreation of Corey’s CHD timeline……
On February 23, 2005 Corey had his very first procedure. He hadn’t even been on the planet as an independent being for one day when the first invasive intervention was necessary. A balloon atrial septostomy. In other words, the doctor widened one of the holes in Corey’s heart to allow blood to shunt more effectively. It happened right in the NICU with a crowd of doctors and medical students watching. We, his parents, were not there.
On February 27, 2005, we were discharged from the hospital, and Corey came home for the first time. I thought the doctor was joking when he said we could leave. It had taken an entire staff of doctors to keep Corey alive this long, who the hell were we to be able to keep him alive in our house with zero medical training for even five minutes? And we were rookie parents! At this point in my life I’d managed to keep a healthy cat alive for seven years, but all the goldfish and plants – dead. Dead as doornails. I was convinced we were in trouble. It was terrifying.
But we managed. Despite the fact that Corey came home in heart failure, on several medications, we managed. Corey also came home with a home pulse oximeter, and we used that sucker religiously. And it’s a good thing we did. Because one night his oxygen-saturation levels plummeted, and we found ourselves right back at Hopkins for the emergency B-T shunt surgery.
I’m thankful that we had a short time to bond with our baby at home, despite the fear. It was nice to hold him, touch his face, count his little fingers and toes, and love him without all the beeping medical equipment, bright lights and bustling staff of our hospital stay. The time was brief, but it was precious.
I’ve never heard a boring birth story. Have you? There’s nothing boring about bringing a new life into the world. Corey’s birth was no exception.
February 22, 2005. My water broke before 5 AM. I woke my husband up and said, “My water broke.” He yelled, “What? What?” He’d been forced to wear earplugs for my entire third trimester to deal with my freight-train snoring. He pulled out the earplugs and I repeated myself. He was out of the house like a shot – it was a sitcom. He nearly forgot me.
The good thing about going into labor in the wee hours of the morning was the traffic. There wasn’t any. We arrived at Hopkins in no time flat. The next sixteen hours brought a parade of doctors, nurses, technicians, students, and every other Tom, Dick and Harry on-call that day into my room. Everybody wanted to see the birth of the heart child. I think the janitor even wandered in at one point. This is why I no longer have any shame.
Alas, despite the extensive number of cheerleaders on my team, labor didn’t work. Corey was sunny side up, refusing to budge, and his heart rate was dropping. An emergency Cesarean section followed. Corey broke into the world wailing like a banshee with all his will to live. The anesthesiologist said, “That’s the healthiest looking baby I’ve ever seen.” And he did look perfect. And pink. Would we have discovered his CHD in time had he not been diagnosed in utero? That’s a thought that haunts me.
I was only afforded a brief glimpse of my squalling baby before he was whisked off to the NICU. Then I had to wait until he was settled and the effects of the anesthesia wore off before they would let me visit him. I waited. And waited. I wanted to sleep desperately. My body was ravaged by the labor and then the emergency surgery. But I did not dare. I didn’t know if Corey would live to see his second day, and I could not risk losing him without ever having touched him, without telling him how much I loved him. And so I waited.
In the middle of the night, they finally came to get me. I couldn’t walk, so they wheeled me to the NICU. And then I finally had the chance to introduce myself to my son. To put my hand on his tiny chest and tell him that I was there and that I loved him. And then I slept.
Corey had his first procedure the next day.