On Thursday night, the 16th of January, last year, after 36 hours of touch-and-go, after holding constant vigil by his bedside, helpless to do anything but stroke him, talk to him, pump milk for him and pray, Zachary finally began to stabilize. The expertise of his doctors and nurses, the fluids, the ventilator, antibiotics, pressers, sedatives, blood transfusions and medical paralyzation - all of these interventions I never imagined he would need - had finally steadied his breathing, his blood pressure and saturation levels.
As we spent the next 12 hours with the night shift neonatologist, the mood in Zachary's hospital room tangibly shifted. There was a calm. Instead of the serious tone and sterile phrases used to provide helpless parents with just enough information, suddenly there was talk, once again, about Zachary's future. There was the actual verbalization that he had probably come through the worst of it. The doctor described the potential implications and complications of the interventions used to treat the sepsis. And because the mood was significantly lighter, he commented on how cute Zachary was, even in his sick and swollen state. We actually laughed together. Conversation somehow drifted to food and cooking and I remember in the midst of the conversation feeling so relieved to be making some small talk, not gripped with fear that the next minute would literally bring death for my child.
With the rising of the sun on Friday, the 17th, although we never said it aloud to anyone other than each other and to one of the family members we spoke to, we believed Zachary's life had been spared...
Friday morning felt like the glorious culmination of vigilant prayer and hands-on medical persistence. Zachary had been completely stable overnight. The arterial line was in. His blood counts and blood pressure were steadily improving as were his oxygen requirements. He was urinating again. Noticing for the first time in a couple of days that we were hungry, Brandon and I stepped away from Zachary's bedside to have a quick breakfast in the hospital cafeteria. Within a minute of sitting down, one of the neonatologists came running to our table. For a moment, I was frozen with panic, assuming he was going to say Zachary had taken a turn for the worse. And then he explained, breathless,...
I don't usually follow parents down to the cafeteria, but I just HAD to tell you. The last (blood) count I was concerned about for Zachary came back from the draw we did this morning, and it has improved! And, way beyond where I expected it to be! We are doing a jig up there! Seriously, the nurses are dancing. This is great news for Zachary!
My hands covered my face, two+ days thick with tears and anguish, and I just knew he was going to be okay. I hugged the doctor and kissed B. When we returned to the NICU, I ran into the lactation specialist who also hugged me and breathed a sigh of relief having heard the news of Zachary's stabilization and glimpses of a real recovery. She congratulated me on having continued to pump every few hours throughout his ordeal, amazed that the stress and lack of food and sleep had not stunted my milk production. She squeezed me again - Zachary was going to need that milk.
For the rest of the morning and through the afternoon, things continued to improve for Zachary as bits of good news calmed our weary minds and bodies. Prayers of thanksgiving launched like fireworks from our hearts. A sense of peace started to settle back into our souls.
When I think about January 17th now, I can't help but see a grim reaper figure in the background, cackling softly behind the curtains in Room 202, as we humbly and hesitantly celebrated the fact that our beloved son had survived.
The same neonatologist who wasn't concerned about anything pathological on that Tuesday, came into Zachary's room early on Friday evening and sat down. B noticed the worry and defeat on his face. He said something like Doc, you don't usually sit down. I'm not sensing you have good news for us. What's up? I had been there plenty of times with a sitting doctor coupled with good news, and I remember thinking stop jumping to conclusions, B. That was the very last moment of my former self.
Now, I can see the grim reaper raising his cloaked arms and head, laughing loudly, exposing his sinister face, as my hands cover my mouth, holding in the screams and the bile that instantly erupted in me with the words of Zachary's doctor.
No. No. No. No. Please, no. He has come through so much. No. This can't be.
The air got thick and my world went dark. Hope was extinguished, leaving only smoke and ashes,... futile, delusional pleadings for a miracle, preparations for the death of another son.
One year ago, today.