And the morning came, with our boy breathing much easier than he had for days. It was a relief to see him sleeping peacefully and, except for occasional visits from a respiratory therapist, largely unmolested.
I had switched into fatigue-induced hyperdrive and spent our few quiet moments tidying up our little section of our room (we shared it with two other babies), reading, and making the first of many interminable visits to the Lactation Station down the hall.
At 7:00 AM, the PICU staff kicked us out for the shift change, muttering something about HIPPA and confidential information. My sweet brother-in-law Marty was chillaxin' in the PICU waiting room, so the three of us grabbed some breakfast from the hospital cafeteria. We also made some phone calls and arranged for my daddy to drive to Salt Lake to bring us some more supplies and take Marty back home.
When we returned, Abe immediately fell back to sleep and I curled up with him on the tiny chair/couch contraption referenced below. It took me a long time to finally wind down, but I eventually fell asleep--for the first time since that long nasty night before Liam went to the hospital--for an hour or two.
I was awakened a few hours later by the sound of a couple of PICU nurses whispering to each other, "Do you think we should wake her up?"
"What? Wake me up?"
"You have some visitors."
"Oh. My dad?"
"No. An elderly couple."
"An elderly couple?" I wracked my brain. The only elderly couple I could think of within a 200-mile radius would be my 90-year-old grandparents. I didn't think they would be here.
The nurse shrugged, so I peeled myself off of Abraham and shuffled down to the front desk. First of all, the couple standing at the front desk was most definitely not elderly. They were more along the lines of middle age. Early middle age even. Secondly, I had never seen them before in my life. "Um," I said to the nurse. "Those aren't ours." But the most-definitely-not-elderly-but-more-along-the-lines-of-middle-aged woman looked at me and said, "Are you Rachel?" And I said "Yes." And she said, "We're the Sterlings."
I immediately recognized their name from the Weekly E-mailed Writings of my mother-in-law. They are friends of Abe's family from New Hampshire who recently transplanted themselves Out West, as those Easterners call it, to be nearer their children.
And I'll let Sister Sterling take it from here. The following is an e-mail she sent to the family after their visit.
(Sister Sterling, I hope you don't mind that I'm using your letter! You can sue me for copyright violation, I suppose. You might win all five of our dollars.)
Hello good friends,
We are tired - I won't mince words about that! Not used to standing next to a small crib in a hospital for 5 hours but we did it and grew very much attached to that little boy Skousen. He has a wonderful presence about him.
(Editor's note: He does! Liam does have a very special presence.)
We recieved word yesterday morning via E-mail that Abe and Rachel were at Primary Children's in Salt lake. We talked about how to help - then Felt said - let's go, we don't have anything that has to be done here - so off we went. We had never been to Primary Children's before. But we followed the H signs for Hospitals and got there very easily.
What a place. It is very large - over 300 beds just for children who are really in trouble. We asked for William Skousen and discovered that there were 3 boys there named William Skousen and one of them born about a month after the William we wanted. We found the correct one and made our way to the PICU Prediatric Intensive Care Unit. We had to wash our hands (we did this over and over again all day long) and use a phone get get past the door. The nurse then went to get Rachel, and when she arrived she did not know who we were and looked so tired. We introduced ourselves and she recognized the name and she immediately took us to William and to Abe (who was very sound asleep on a chair couch contraption). William's color was good - nice and pink and you could tell right away he was a nursing baby - he was a good size for 7 weeks. Of course he was on 60% oxygen at that time and so he should have looked good. We insisted that they let us take them downstairs for lunch they had not eaten or slept much. Rachel's brother-in- law - who had driven Abe to SLC - was also there waiting for Rachel's Dad to come get him. He seemed to be a very nice man. We all trooped downstairs and had lunch and a nice visit in the cafeteria. The food was not bad for a hospital.
While visiting with us, Rachel turned to me and said "there is something you could do for us." I of course agreed and then she asked us to stay with William while they went to her brother's in Layton and showered and slept some. We went back up to the PICU and the nurses accepted us as if we were family. When each new nurse, doctor, or treatment person came they said something like, "Oh, I have some surrogate grandparents also." So we were very comfortable.
Now for the health part. William was on a raised flat bed with small plastic sides; he had a blood pressure cuff on one foot and an oxygen level reader on the other. He has an IV for antibiotics in one hand with it taped to a small board and a sock over that. He had chest leads from his heart and lungs and a nasal cannula providing pressured oxygen all the time. That was just in his nose (not a ventilator) and the tubes ingeniously went up to a cap on his head with velcro tabs that kept it out of his way.
Until Rachel and Abe left us he had been asleep or resting each time we saw him. Rachel said they were going to come put a tube down his nose into his stomach to feed him and she did not want to be there for that. So off they went and we had to hone up our grandparenting skills. William had a RN to himself; in fact, all the children in the PICU had individual nurses. Many of the children, if not most of them, seemed to be much sicker than William is/was. We were so impressed with the care and ability of all those who were there.
William decided that we were not family and he woke and fussed some . We learned how to comfort him without picking him up - not allowed by us -- and I never saw Rachel hold him either. I think they were still evaluating him to some degree. We learned to pat his back or tummy until he could drift off to sleep and how to sweeten up the pacifier. They did eventually come and put the tube down his nose - we left and stood outside. Nothing we could do would have made it any better. That of course exhausted him and he slept for a while after that experience - then they came and woke him up to take an x-ray to make sure the tube was in the correct place beofre they could feed him. Finally he was able to get some breast milk that had been stored from Rachel, I suppose: it was an automatic infusion slowly down this tube into his upper intestine. They did not want anyhing in his stomach that could come back up and get in his lungs. What an education we got! We asked so many questions all day long and met so many wonderful people. Felt made friends with the respiratory therapist and we met some very nice young doctors.
Shift change came a little after 7 pm and they told us when the new nurses arrived we would have to leave. I guess it is for confidentiality purposes. We thanked our nurse and the others we saw and left. We still had not found Rachel and Abe. Then there they were all smiles and looking clean and a little rested. They were not able to get in to William until the shift change was complete. We surely hope that today things are going well. The nurses told us he would likely get worse before he got better. I guess they thought it was more RSV than pneumonia. That is a nasty virus that abounds in small children and infants.
We left just marveling at how good we felt to be able to serve and how glad we are that we never had to have that experience with our children. Also, what a glorious time we live in where there is so much help available to all of us with the medical advances and technology. Also very glad to be able to go back to our own home and bed and get some sleep. I hope that Rachel (and Abe) will be able to find a place to sleep - maybe Ronald McDonald house - and they do have parent sleeping rooms and showers right there off the waiting area.
We wanted you folks to know that last night at 7 pm he was doing well and must have been improving since they reduced the pressure on the machine that was helping him breath and had reduced the oxygen flow to 40%.
Thanks so much for letting us know about this. We know first hand how hard it is to be so far away and have your children and grandchildren need help. I feel certain that he is in the best place possible under these circumstances. and is getting superior care. We told Rachel that we would check back during the week when we go down to pick up Geoff and Linda Parkerson from the airport. And to call us if they needed another break.
Today we finally have spring!!! Warm air, lots of blue sky, and sunshine. We are going to go get dirt (and maybe even some cool weather plants) to put in the pots and get ready to drive up to Idaho tomorrow to do a Trek Fireside for our son Scott's ward, which is going on Trek this summer.
Keep us posted and know we love and care about you and your families.
hugs all around,
Ruth Ann and Felt
PS Our daughter Julie will be working at the PICU at Primary this Tuesday. If William is still there she will check on him and report what she can.