Friday, October 10, 2008

Looking back: early days, early visitors

(September 2007) Oliver was in the hospital for 40 days, during which time Shami and I spent almost all our time by his side. He was 6 days old when they allowed me to have my first "cuddle" with him. With all the padding, pillows and blankets they insisted on, not to mention all the wires and tubes we had to accommodate, it was hardly a real cuddle. Still, he was in my arms for the very first time, and that was special.

First cuddle First cuddle

At first we were rarely allowed to hold him, and the nurses discouraged us from stroking or stimulating him. But we touched him as much as possible. A hand on his head, chest, arm or foot, just to let him feel our presence next to him. Shami liked to give Oliver a finger to grasp, and would sit for hours that way. If you look closely at the two photos below, you can see that Ollie is nestled in ice packs. The doctors chilled him for the first 72 hours of his life to help reduce secondary brain damage.

Oliver and Shami at the NICU Holding on

With our families half a world away, Shami and I were on our own until my sister called my cousin Sue and alerted her to the crisis. Living locally in Sydney, she was our first visitor, and helped us tremendously through the initial days. She brought us edible and iron-rich food (I was very anemic) while we were still in the hospital, and lent a shoulder to cry on. She has been a wonderful support for us this past year. She has visited us several times with her delicious and always-welcome roasted veggie casserole!

Sue at the NICU Laura Beth at the NICU

Laura Beth and Bryan were the other local first-responders. Laura Beth came to the hospital several times, with gifts of food, magazines, and always a sympathetic ear. We are forever grateful.

When Oliver was 8 days old my sister Caitlin arrived for a week-long visit, traveling all the way from Ithaca, NY. We had planned the visit months in advance, and I had so looked forward to sharing the joys of our new baby with her. Although it was not the happy visit we had envisioned, her loving presence during the early days of our crisis was a tremendous help. She was with us through an extremely difficult week. Among other things, I leaned on her when I was discharged from the hospital, and when we got the upsetting results from Oliver's first MRI. Having her there, as a sister and as a doctor, was a incredible comfort to me. The time for goodbye came far too soon.

Aunt Caitlin at the NICU Aunt Caitlin's first cuddle

From the very beginning Caitlin wanted to hold Oliver, but the NICU rules do not allow anyone but the parents to handle their babies. They were pretty strict about this. But the day before she left, during a crib change, a sympathetic nurse let her hold Ollie while he was temporarily off his monitors. We are so glad she got a cuddle!

Oliver and Meghan at the NICU Tubes and airplanes

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