Abe returns from dropping Soren off at Grandma’s house. Someone brings us boxed lunches. I nurse Liam for what ends up being the last time in five days. The nurse says his oxygen saturation level will probably go down while I feed him. Instead, it goes up.
Liam and I take a ride on a gurney. I try to enjoy the fact that I’m being wheeled down the hall of a hospital while fully conscious, but I mostly feel self-conscious, as everyone who passes tries not to stare.
We are given a room in the pediatrics unit and I answer the same questions I answered first at the doctor’s office, then multiple times in the ER. Liam trades in his oxygen mask for a nasal cannula. We are assigned a nurse, Micky, and a respiratory therapist, Heidi. Everyone keeps commenting on how hard Liam is working to breathe.
For the rest of the day, Micky comes in at least every hour to check Liam’s breathing and oxygen saturation levels. People come in periodically to draw blood from his heel. Every two hours, Heidi pounds on Liam’s back with a little stick called a percussor for several minutes, which he loves, then does a “deep suctioning” of his nasal cavity, which he hates.
Dr. Baker, our family practitioner, shows up. I am relieved to see him. Not only do I have a mild crush on the man, I trust his opinion and know from past experience that he won’t recommend any unnecessary interventions for my baby. He looks at Liam, listens to his lungs, then says: “He’s doing okay right now, but I’m wondering how long he’ll be able to sustain this sort of effort. If he gives out, this is not the place to do it. I’m thinking he’ll need to be transferred to Primary Children’s.”
We are then introduced to the pediatrician on call, Dr. Hatch, who stays at the hospital with us, keeping a close eye on Liam, for the rest of the time we’re at EIRMC. He puts Liam on three different antibiotics, “just in case” the infection causing all this is bacterial. Dr. Hatch wants to put the baby on CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) but is told that at EIRMC only preemies can be put on CPAP.
The rest of the day is spent holding Liam’s hand (and stroking the tiny patch of head not covered by a bandage) while he is poked, prodded, pounded, listened to, observed, suctioned, and given albuterol treatments. Abe and I learn about respiratory rates and pass the time counting his breaths per minute. When this gets boring we try to remember all the states and their capitals.
I am so full of milk I can’t bend over. I beg for, and am given, a breast pump kit. The medical staff says I am not allowed to nurse the baby because he’s working hard enough just to breathe; eating would just be too hard for him right now. They are also afraid he might aspirate, which would exacerbate his pneumonia. I think this might be a bunch of hogwash, remembering our experience in the emergency room, but it might not. I don’t want to risk it. I wish I had a medical degree.
My mom leaves Soren with Grandpa and drops by for a quick check-in.
Collette and Marty stop in for a visit.
Liam’s blood gas reading shows surprisingly healthy levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The doctor thinks we might not have to transfer him after all.
I send Abe home to get some toiletries and pajamas so that I can spend the night with Liam in the hospital.
I don’t want to be alone while Abe is gone, so Nicholas comes over to sit with us for a while. He brings a deck of cards, a DVD, and a pile of reading. He holds up books: Mother Theresa: Come Be My Light, “or, if you want something lighter,” The National Geographic “or, if you want something even lighter,” Elle Décor. We talk politics and giggle.
Liam is ravenous. He tries to vigorously suckle anything that comes near his mouth. The nurse brings in a magical substance called “Sweet-Ease” (basically: sugar water). I dip his pacifier in the sugar water and give it to him. He sucks it off quickly, spits out the pacifier, and screams for more. I spend much of the rest of the evening making sure he has enough sweets.
Abe comes back.
We are assigned a new respiratory therapist. She has wild hair and even wilder eyes. She slaps the percussor haphazardly around Liam’s back. Every time we are alone in the room, she looks around conspiratorially and says things like, “I’m not supposed to say anything, but I think you should nurse him.” “The doctor won’t let you breastfeed because he’s a man and doesn’t understand anything.” “I think you should just close the door and nurse the baby.” She tells me about her Alpaca cooperative. We talk knitting.
A blood gas reading shows that Liam’s CO2 levels are increasing. This is a bad sign, according to Dr. Hatch, who says that it indicates that his respirations aren’t doing their job as efficiently as they should. “He may go into respiratory failure and need to be intubated,” he told us. “And if he does, it would be better for that to happen at Primary Children’s so we wouldn’t have to transfer him while intubated. I’ll call in the emergency response team. They should be here in about two hours.”