We arrived on the NICU to find five or six or seven medical staff huddled around her bed, Dave and his mom standing outside looking in, tears on their cheeks, praying.
"They were doing her regular care [change diaper, change bedding, etc.] and then they switched her around, and they can't get her oxygen levels to normalize." --Dave was obviously in deep distress. "This is the second time today! They should have Dr. _________ here whenever they are going to do that. They know it's going to happen! They should just have her regular nurses and Dr. _______, and then this stuff wouldn't happen! I'd like to punch somebody out!"
"Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Dave! . . . Maybe you shouldn't be here!" I responded. And then immediately repented that I had said anything.
High emotions. Not good.
Dave said they had been at it for five or ten minutes before we got there. And now it was 10 minutes into our presence. And still they struggled.
"Where's the line?" asked the lead doctor. "What's the number? What's the number? Where are we?"
"Try five and a half. . . " [Based on previous experience, they are talking about markings on the breathing tube indicating exactly how deep the tube is being inserted into Gracie Lou's mouth. I believe the numbers may refer to millimeters. They are certainly only tiny fractions of an inch.]
"Give me 12 liters of oxygen."
"You've got it."
"No. I'm not getting 12. I'm getting too much! Please! Twelve!"
"We're at 12."
"It's not right!"
And so they struggled. . . .
"Come on, baby! Come on, baby!" Two grandmas are praying in the hallway. Daddy is in tears. And grandpa is taking
photographs. . . .
"Okay! Okay!" says the lead doctor. "You've got the tube just right! Let's tape it. Right there."
It's been 15 minutes since Sarita and I arrived.
The doctor continues to pump air into Gracie Lou's lungs.
It's been twenty-two minutes since Sarita and I arrived. And, according to Dave, another five or ten minutes more since the episode began.
Eventually, as the doctor begins to walk out of the room, Dave pulls him aside. His voice is strained.
"Can we please stick with staff who know her?
Graciously, patiently, humbly, the doctor seeks to console
"I would trust every one of these staff members with my life," he says.
"Shall we go someplace and sit down?" invites the doctor. "Let's go sit down and talk."
Soon the five of us--Dave, his mom, Sarita and I, together with the doctor--find ourselves sitting in the "family" room off to the side of the NICU. And undefensively, gently, with utmost consideration, he answers every one of our questions and explains the real gravity of the situation.
I will confess: Tonight things sounded very grim. For the first time I got the sense that the doctor is not too hopeful. "She is as sick as they come." "Normally, preemies' lungs don't look as bad as hers do until a month or so after they have been born." "Her lungs have become far more damaged far more quickly than normal." "One of these times, she is going to have one of these episodes, and we won't be able to pull her through." "There were a couple of times today when I honestly thought we had lost
Eventually, with our questions answered, we returned to Gracie Lou's cubicle where we were able to enjoy a few last moments with
- Besides the obvious miracles to see Gracie's lungs healed . . .
- I think the adult members of the family could use prayer that we don't blow our own relationships apart in the midst of the stresses and strains of the situation as it is and as a result of the fact that we differ in the way we handle grief and fear and frustration.
I have heard stories of husbands and wives whose relationships were unable to withstand the strain of this kind of experience. I pray our extended family will withstand and, in fact, grow, through this trying time.