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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Revisiting October 17, 2009, A Birthday Celebration

Our first two children have birthdays in November. Madison was born 11/13/2003, and Kaitlyn was born 11/2/2005. As our triplet pregnancy progressed, even though the due date was in January, we realized that the date of delivery would likely be prior to November. Because we knew that our lives would be changed dramatically after we delivered, we made it a goal to have a grand birthday bash for the girls and schedule it early in hopes that we would be able to share the moment with them.

As fate would have it, Tiffany was diagnosed as having low amniotic fluid a week prior to the scheduled date of the party and we opted to have her stay in Albuquerque to be closer to the NICU and also hoped that a 2100 ft drop in elevation might have a positive effect on the pregnancy. On Friday October 16, Tiffany was scheduled for a prenatal visit which revealed that Ethan's umbilical cord flow was stagnant during the rest of Tiffany's heartbeat. It is supposed to continue flow during the resting beat, so the condition was very precarious. Tiffany was immediately admitted to the hospital and I was soon packing my bags and headed from Los Alamos, NM to Albuquerque. To be honest, I do not remember any detail from that Friday evening. I do know that I was unwilling to accept that Ethan's condition would worsen and that I fully anticipated Tiffany being in the hospital several weeks before delivery. Saturday October 17 arrived. The day was complicated as I was supposed to be home with Madison and Kaitlyn getting ready for a birthday party. Instead, I was in the hospital soon to find out it would be a birth date indeed. Back to the party, it's a good thing that my mother and brother-in-law were able to be there for the kids. I don't know what we would have done otherwise. As it was though, it was a grand party with inflatables and clowns. Everything was taken care of by a party organizer which made it a lot easier. (I suggest that if you are able to do so, to have one such birthday party for your kids. The memories are well worth it.) We just wanted the kids to have fun, so we invited as many as possible. 
Meanwhile, back at the hospital it was hurry up and wait.  There were lots of nurses and labs drawn and in the midst of it all is the struggle to be calm when there's so much anticipation.  It wasn't until late morning that the prenatal specialist did rounds and checked Ethan's status via ultrasound.  The results were not good and there was indication that his cord flow had indeed started to reverse.  The clock had already started counting down to some point in time that he would essentially suffocate without a blood flow of fresh oxygen.
We were immediately given our options and we chose to go ahead with an emergency c-section that day instead of chancing Ethan passing in utero and the likely damage that would cause Devon.

What followed was a steady stream of doctors and NICU doctors and nurses and paper, lets not forget the paper.  As much as you want to be attentive in such a situation, eventually it becomes a bit overwelming and everything starts to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher.  I caught the parts about needing steroids to help the lungs and first thing first is that each child would have to be successfully intubated which would be challenging with such small infants. 

The period of time that followed seemed like an eternity.  There was some sort of holdup on getting the script for the steroid filled.  I had actually anticipated getting a steroid dose the prior evening, but the prenatal specialist elected a wait and see approach, apparently because it was still a bit early as far as gestational age goes.  Eventually, the dose came and was administered and at some point the anesthesiologist had administered the epidural, and Tiffany was carted off to the OR.  My job was to suit up and wait until called upon, and soon enough I was called upon.  It is difficult to give justice to any description of the moments prior to birth as I waited on one side of the cloth trying to comfort both my wife and myself.  I was very much caught up in consoling her when I was tapped on the shoulder with a "Dad, you don't want to miss this."  As I peered over the cloth the surgical team made quick work as Ethan was born followed quickly by Devon.  Their frail bodies were quickly wisked away and thru a door into the NICU.  Reagan was a bit more difficult to deliver as she was carried much higher in the uterus than the other two.  When she was born, she came out crying.  With the silence experienced during the birth of her brothers, the cry was a welcome sign and Tiffany and I simultaneously gave a sigh of relief and we embraced each other with smiles on our faces.  Ethan was born at 10.6 ounces, Devon at 18 ounces, and Reagan at 23 ounces.

Thus started our experience with the NICU.  Before Tiffany had been stitched up word had came that all three infants were successfully intubated.  Next to Reagan's cry, this was the second best news of the day.

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