James does hospital (Round 2)
James was recently back in hospital for a night. He got a runny nose Friday night, and by Saturday night he was struggling to breathe. James had most likely developed a virus such as the common cold, but being premature meant his lungs were vulnerable and at higher risk for further complications such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia. On Sunday morning when he wasn’t improving, we decided to take him to the local doctor for our own peace of mind. The doctor was concerned with the effort James was using to breathe, and he could hear some wheezes and crackles in the base of his lungs. We were sent for an x-ray and the radiologist saw patchy spots reinforcing the earlier concerns of pneumonia. The doctor sent us to hospital immediately, and despite being a nurse and caring for babies with these conditions daily, I broke down in tears. I wasn’t sure whether it was the diagnosis, or the fear of going back to hospital where we had anxiously spent the first five weeks of his life.
We drove straight to hospital, not even stopping to grab nappies or a change of clothes – we weren’t taking any chances. I decided to go to the hospital that I had worked at, not the hospital where James was born. As we arrived, I realised why I had made that decision. We were met at the door by two of my favourite nurses and doctors, and James was assessed immediately. We were given extra special treatment by extra special people who were also my friends – I trusted these people immensely. James was still working hard to breathe, but his oxygen levels were adequate. He had a fever and his heartrate was high, but he was still managing to give the nurses his best cheeky smiles. The doctors at the hospital weren’t convinced it was pneumonia, and instead diagnosed James with bronchiolitis. This was a huge relief as it meant we could avoid needles and antibiotics. It was decided that James would be admitted for the night due to his breathing effort and his fragile premmie lungs. Scott decided to drive home to get supplies, while I waited in ED for the ward to be ready for us.
We were later taken upstairs to another place that felt like home. Some of my favourite nurses worked on the paediatric ward, and although at times I felt like we didn’t really need to be in hospital, I felt extremely safe knowing we would be taken care of if James’ condition deteriorated. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. James slept better than he had in the past week and only had some coughs, splutters and wheezing when he woke for a feed. I didn’t sleep much more than a couple of hours, but as I laid awake next to my little fighter, I was reminded of just how far we had come. When Scott arrived bright and early the next morning, he sat down with James in his arms and told me how eerily familiar this had all been for him. He spoke of how driving home the night before reminded him too closely of the times he had to drive home while James was in NICU. It was hard to stomach, and he hated having to leave us in hospital once more, frightened of the possibilities and anxious of what might happen overnight.
James was discharged around midday that day. As we drove home Monday (ironically the week leading up to ‘World Prematurity Day’), it hit home just how important it is for babies to fully develop during the final weeks of pregnancy. We were extremely lucky that James didn’t suffer any long-term lung complications due to his early arrival, but this hospital visit was a big reminder how vulnerable and susceptible he is nonetheless. The last few weeks of pregnancy are vital for brain, lung and liver development, and this is the reason I now cringe every time I hear a pregnant Mumma saying she wants her baby to ‘just come out already’. A pregnancy is meant to last 40 weeks…every week counts.
On World Prematurity Day (November 17th), I ask you to HUG your loved ones tight, and remember those families who are unable to hug their premature babies right now.