Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Three cheers for Elecare!

Bryce's growth has been nearly ideal since we started fortifying his milk. He's up 150 grams (to 6 lb., 12 oz.) over the past five days, and seems much happier. He's a better nurser than bottler, so the first couple days were frustrating, but we eventually discovered that if we use a newborn nipple on his bottles, instead of the preemie nipple we were advised to use, he finishes his bottles in a quarter of the time and doesn't choke any more frequently. So, it seems that the looming specter of re-hospitalization has been banished by a mere 2.5 tsp/day of formula, and I'd say everyone in the Sonnek household is sleeping easier (albeit not enough).

There isn't much else to report, and that's a good thing. I'm back at work, so my time is ridiculously over-committed, but I'll post the latest updates (and pictures!) when life permits.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Eating is supposed to be fun!

I did my best to remain calm as Bryce's weight remained steady or slowly decreased for most of last week, but when he dropped an entire ounce on Friday, I decided we'd had enough of this "wait-and-see" business. Bryce's home nurse stopped by for our weekly visit in the morning, and during his exam, he noted that Bryce's bowel sounded "too active". This, combined with the nearly constant stream of material coming out of Bryce's backside, led him to suggest that Bryce might have a condition called malabsorption. Basically, this means that Bryce's body is not absorbing enough nutrients from the milk as it passes through his digestive system, resulting in the stagnant growth we'd observed for the past couple weeks.

It was already halfway through the last workday of the week, so I immediately switched to pesky parent mode and started calling every doctor in Bryce's lengthy list of care providers. An hour later, Logan and I were headed to Children's Hospital to pick up a sample can of a special formula called Elecare, which we'll be using to fortify Bryce's milk for the foreseeable future. Elecare is an "elemental" formula, composed of basic amino acids, which is recommended for babies with very sensitive stomachs.

Given the fact that we've only been adding it to half of his feedings for two days, the results have been dramatic. The dirty diaper rate has decreased to a more normal 3-4 per day, and his weight is up 100 grams to 3 kg (6.6 lbs) despite the fact that he's taking in quite a bit less milk. It's too early to declare victory, but we're both feeling good about the change.

The only downside to the new diet is that Elecare tastes terrible. When Bryce came home, feeding was a high-anxiety activity involving choking, shrill alarms and overwrought parents. Over the past two weeks, things had gradually improved to the point where I almost felt comfortable watching TV while he was eating. Now, it seems we're back to square one; as soon as the formula/milk mix touches his tongue, Bryce scrunches his face, starts squirming and stops breathing. Fun. Hopefully he'll get used to the taste, and as he starts packing on the pounds, perhaps we'll be able to add it less frequently.

With the exception of our feeding woes, things are going quite well. Everyone is still healthy, and with respect to being held by Mommy and Daddy, Bryce is happily making up for lost time. Logan loves to share toys with his little brother, and we're all anxiously awaiting the day when Bryce is old enough to reciprocate. Meanwhile, we'll enjoy the good times, and try to make the best of the rest.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Stop this noise!" -- Logan

Considering that Bryce spent the first three months of his life confined to an isolette, I'm amazed at what a people person he's become. During the past few days, he's raised an awful racket any time he's not being held. Christie and I have been sleeping with him in the rocking chair, and he's virtually always being held during the day. Personally, I wouldn't be opposed to the idea of one of us sitting on the couch all day, but our toddler feels differently, and eventually I'm going to have to go back to work. I try to tell myself that it's only temporary, but when the scale comes back with 2.93 kg for three days in a row, it's hard to stay positive. I spent some time thinking about this dilemma yesterday, and I thought I'd come up with the perfect solution, but those heartless jerks at the Powerball office didn't draw my numbers. Plan B, which is a baby sling that Christie found online (he's still too small for the Baby Bjorn), seems to be working better (see above).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Got faith?

Yesterday, Christie and I were introduced to the wonderful world of Anoka County family services. Due to his extremely low birth weight, Bryce is automatically classified as a "disabled" child (boo!), which means that there are a number of free services available to him through the county Early Intervention program (yay!). A couple of program representatives stopped out at the house yesterday and explained that Bryce is eligible for free home visits from a speech therapist, an occupational therapist and a home nurse. Based on his background, they're going to develop a program specifically tailored to address developmental delays Bryce is more likely to encounter. Once again, I was pleased to learn that all these services are available, but didn't care to be reminded that the overwhelming majority of 24-weekers have some sort of developmental problems.

We've settled into a fairly comfortable routine at the Sonnek household. Other than being extremely busy, Christie and I would be quite pleased with the status quo if it weren't for one teensy problem: the smallest member of the family is dead set on staying that way. After four days of nearly flat weight gain, Bryce is up only 3 ounces since his doctor appointment last Tuesday, and he's only gained 7 ounces since September 4th!

Since we received the baby scale, I've been tracking Bryce's daily milk intake. During the past three days, he took in roughly 600 ml (about 20 oz) per day, which is well above the 450 ml/day required by a 3 kg baby. When I presented this data to Bryce's pediatrician today, he agreed that his volumes are more than sufficient. So, he concluded that either Bryce is working too hard to eat (hence burning too many calories), or his digestive system is doing a poor job of absorbing nutrients because it still hasn't fully matured.

We briefly discussed introducing a higher calorie hypoallergenic formula, but the pediatrician said that he believes that keeping him on straight breastmilk is our best bet. He explained that if Bryce had trouble digesting the formula, he might develop gastrointestinal problems such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which would be far worse than just growing slowly. Then, Bryce's doctor smiled at us and said, "have faith." At this point, I'm not sure how comfortable I am clinging to the wispy thread of faith I have left, but the mere mention of Chloe's arch-nemesis was enough to quell any opposition from me.

So, it seems that Bryce will be one of the few babies who actually gets a lot of use out of his newborn-size outfits. We'll keep plugging away, and hopefully his rate of growth will increase as he matures.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Let's see how far we've come

When I look back on our first eight days at home as a whole, I feel a lot more optimistic about the weeks to come. Bryce's weekly weight gain of 5 ounces, while a bit short of the desired 7+, certainly isn't cause to sound the alarm. And speaking of alarms, though Bryce has unexpectedly set off his monitor a few times, we have yet to experience anything that warrants a call to the nurses, let alone 911. Perhaps it's just a matter of us adapting to his feeding style, but it seems like he has been waking to eat more consistently, and we're more confident that he can, and will, thrive at home. As Logan likes to say, "Baby Bice going grow big!"

I'd like to thank those of you who shared your own infant reflux experiences with us. Though reflux is very common amongst preemies, it is certainly a problem for many full-term babies as well. In fact, I often find myself wondering how many of Bryce's issues are prematurity-related, and how many are just things that we didn't experience with Logan.

We've been slowly introducing Bryce to the trappings of modern baby life. Thus far, Christie and I have been hesitant to leave him in a swing or bouncer, even though it might help to alleviate some of his irritability. As one of our dear readers correctly pointed out, our NICU experience has made us gun-shy. I'm afraid to let Bryce lie on my chest, let alone in a swing, because I know that something as innocuous as the beating of my heart can interfere with his apnea monitor. Also, we've been conditioned to position him in a way that facilitates breathing and minimizes choking/reflux, and it's hard to stop worrying about those things, even if he is starting to outgrow the need for them. Of course, it doesn't help that well-meaning medical authorities have both chastised us for not treating him like a normal baby and warned us that he may be blown over by the feeblest of sneezes.

I realized yesterday that it's been a while since I've uploaded a video, and I know it's hard to get a good sense of Bryce's personality from pictures alone, so I hope you'll enjoy our latest features (Tummy Time and Mat Play). Also, for the medically curious, you can pretty clearly see Bryce's cleft palate in the photo below (actually, you can only see the groove; the hole is near the front, and requires a flashlight to see).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Things are looking up

I can't help but preface today's post with a comment about the constant mood swings associated with raising Bryce. I am painfully aware that our daily appraisal of Bryce's future oscillates wildly between hope and despair. In fact, I sometimes choose not to post the latest news because I strongly suspect that the following day will bring a less upsetting, if not downright contradictory, update. Bryce (and ^Chloe^) have toed a fine line between sickness and health from the moment they were born, and often even the most experienced doctors don't know on which side of that line they're going to fall. I'd prefer to spare our family and friends the anguish we're experiencing; however, I do want to convey some sense of what it feels like to be a micro-preemie parent. Despite the fact that I sometimes feel like I'm living in a completely unbelievable reality that even the most die hard soap opera fan would scoff at, I do my best to tell it how it is. That being said, I do think that Bryce is going to outgrow his prematurity, and I like to think that someday his story will provide a little hope to others who are struggling through dark days.

The only unpleasant news of the day is that Bryce still has a very sensitive stomach. He is a surprisingly gassy baby, which also makes him a somewhat fussy baby; there have been times that he's screamed for up to an hour, and I can literally hear his stomach rumbling from across the room. Given that all he eats is breastmilk, which is supposed to be the most easily digestible food known to man, I'm a bit worried about what's to come. Also, we have had a couple of spontaneous reflux/choking episodes, which makes it difficult to imagine how Christie will be able to go anywhere alone. It's pretty hard to drive when you have a baby in the back seat who may stop breathing at any moment.

Now, on to the good news! Bryce had another follow-up appointment with the opthamologist this morning, and his retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) has completely regressed! She said he is not completely out of the woods yet, as preemies with severe ROP are at highest risk of retinal detachment until 41 weeks gestational age (next week for Bryce), but she felt that he was very unlikely to suffer that fate. It's a little too early to say anything about his visual acuity, but she said we can expect "visual behavior" (such as tracking objects with his eyes) during the next few weeks!

As far as feeding is concerned, Bryce seems to be doing better. After our experience during the first few days, we reluctantly agreed to pay the outrageous fee of $120/mo to rent a baby scale for home use. Now, Christie can weigh Bryce before and after he nurses to determine almost exactly how much he ate, which will allow us to more accurately assess whether his nutritional needs are being met. Better yet, he was up 60 grams (2 oz.) on Wednesday, and an additional 50 grams today! Hopefully, this marks the beginning of a new trend towards even chubbier cheeks, and perhaps the resolution of some of the feeding issues described above.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Bryce Sonnek Economic Recovery Act

So, I found myself with a little free time to think in the wee hours of the morning, and I came up with a great way that Bryce and I can serve our country during these dire financial times.

As you all know, Bryce's care has not been cheap. In fact, room and board in the NICU ran about $10K per day, and even the ICC charged $6K per day. What many of you may not know is that my employer is primarily a government contractor, and since they are self-insured, I suppose that means that Bryce's care was paid for largely with tax dollars (thanks, by the way).

Christie and I recently learned from Bryce's home nurse that some micro-preemies remain in the hospital for upwards of four years! However, since we're such fantastic parents, we've graciously agreed to assume full responsibility for Bryce's care after only 108 days. Best of all, we're willing to do it for a mere $1K per day -- over the course of four years, we'll have saved the taxpayers $6.7 million dollars! I like to call it the Bryce Sonnek Economic Recovery Act.

We hear a lot these days about "helping out the little guy", and I seriously doubt that you can find too many guys who started out smaller than Bryce. Everyone loves babies, so it's sure to be a winner politically, and my economic advisers assure me that it makes at least as much sense as collateralized debt obligations. Everybody wins! I'll be sending my proposal to President Obama later this week.

P.S. In case it wasn't obvious, we're feeling a bit better after a more restful day. Bryce is still having tummy issues; more on that when we know more.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Honeymoon's Over

Exhaustion is the word of the day. Christie and I are feeling physically drained after four sleepless nights, and our emotional reserves hit empty after Bryce's first check-up this morning.

I'll start with the good news. Bryce's pediatrician (who happens to be Logan's as well) was highly recommended by the neonatologist at Children's, and he assured us that he has a great deal of experience caring for preemies. He was impressed with Bryce's behavior and reflexes, and said that he thinks Bryce will have a good neurological outcome.

We should have been thrilled by this news, but our spirits had already been broken by that merciless device which is hated by so many: the scale. After four days and nights of patiently cajoling Bryce to take enough food, we learned that he's gained a measly 40 grams since discharge. At that rate, he won't hit Logan's birth weight (7lb, 12oz) until Christmas! The pediatrician said that it will be hard to for him to drink enough milk to meet his needs, but we can't fortify his milk (as they typically do) because of his milk/soy sensitivity. He had been tracking the 10th percentile for weight, length and head size, but during the past 10 days, he's fallen off even that low standard; quite the predicament. For those keeping score, Bryce is 6 lb., 2 oz., 18.5" long, and has a head circumference of 34 cm. Today is his "due date", so his corrected age is officially 0 days old!

We also had a discussion about the upcoming cold season, and it seems that they really do expect us to keep Bryce quarantined at home. The pediatrician encouraged us to avoid all public places, and said that "no one should breathe in Bryce's face, or touch his face/hands". Other than "brief periods in our backyard", we were told that he really shouldn't go out. So much for the whole cuddly newborn thing. On the plus side, we get priority service at the doctor's office; no waiting room for Bryce!

A wise man once said, "nothing worthwhile is ever easy." I just hope we're up to the challenge.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Life with Bryce

I'm happy to report that, so far, caring for baby Bryce has been reminiscent of caring for baby Logan. Of course, we've only been sleeping a few hours at night, but that's to be expected with a newborn; in fact, if Logan would let us sleep during the day, we might both be fairly well rested! :-P

The most notable difference so far is feeding-related. With Logan, mealtimes were easy. He nursed consistently from day one, and he didn't dawdle; during the night, Christie could more or less feed him in her sleep. For Bryce, mealtimes are a major stressor for everyone. Like many preemies, he is struggling to maintain the calorie surplus he needs to gain weight -- while nursing, he often works too hard to take in a small quantity of milk. As a consequence, we've been bottling him for at least half his feedings.

Unfortunately, bottling requires the complete concentration of at least one adult for about an hour. The milk comes out of the bottle more easily, requiring less work from Bryce (i.e., more calories conserved); however, sometimes he gets more milk than he expects, which causes him to choke. Thus, whenever we bottle him, we have to pay very close attention to his breathing to ensure that he isn't getting overwhelmed. To make matters worse, Bryce came home on several medications, and judging from his reaction, they're definitely not bubblegum flavored. To get him to take them, we mix them with a little milk in his bottle, but he still chokes every time we give him the meds. Hopefully, we can get him to put on some weight, because as Sandra Moore so eloquently put it (see "The Preemie Experience" in an earlier post), "the (severity of the) constant fight to gain weight is in direct proportion to the preemie's ability to do so".

Another major difference, which hasn't affected us too much yet, is Bryce's frailty. I've mentioned in earlier posts that the ventilators that saved Bryce's life in the early days also damaged his lungs. As a consequence, Bryce has been diagnosed with a condition called Chronic Lung Disease (CLD). Hopefully, his lungs will heal over the next year or so, but since they are so fragile right now, any type of respiratory infection could be very serious for Bryce. There is one strain of cold in particular, called Respiratory Synctial Virus (RSV), that most babies catch before age 2. Unfortunately, the doctors have warned us that if Bryce catches this cold during the coming winter, he'll very likely wind up in the hospital. In fact, the doctor said that both of the boys should steer clear of any type of childcare for the first year, and that they should avoid other places where they might come in contact with large groups of children. That, combined with the coming cold/flu season, means that you probably won't see us out and about too much during the next few months. Also, everyone in the Sonnek household is learning to be very conscientious when it comes to proper hand-washing and hygiene, and we'll be asking the same of anyone who comes to visit.

I suppose that by now our readers must feel like living with Bryce is all doom and gloom, but we just want everyone to understand that we're not actually weird, overprotective hermits. In truth, these past forty eight hours have been a dream come true. Sitting with Bryce as he dozes, listening to him breathe, inhaling that baby smell, smiling as Logan runs over with yet another toy car for him, and imagining our future together -- these are just a few of the things we've experienced in the past two days that have made the first 108 all worthwhile.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jubilation (The Last Day)

Once again, I find myself at a loss for words, but today's tears will be of a different type. Late this afternoon, after a mere 108 days, Bryce Thomas Sonnek will be coming home. Our sincerest thanks to all the doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, chaplains, family and friends who have made today possible. They say that it takes a village to raise a child; in this case, they could not have been more right.

Today marks the beginning of an entirely new journey for Bryce. As far as infant/child development goes, we know that he will likely follow a road less traveled. Christie and I both found a great deal of hope and inspiration in the blogs of other micro-preemie parents, and I will continue to post periodic updates, particularly with regard to the unique joys and trials of raising a 24-weeker. I hope future preemie parents find solace in Bryce and Chloe's story.

We did it! More later. :)

UPDATE: The photo gallery (Logan gave him the truck)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Not today (107 days)

Christie's 30th birthday started off on a sour note. When she called the NICU at 4AM this morning, they told her that Bryce had lost 20 grams (about 2/3 of an ounce); one day hardly signifies a trend, but this was actually the fifth consecutive day of modest gains/losses. Thus, we were worried that they'd have to put him back on scheduled feedings using the NG tube, which would be a significant setback. However, as the day progressed, our hope was restored; Bryce needs to take about 50 ml of milk every three hours to meet his caloric needs, and while he was taking 30-50 ml yesterday, today he has taken 100, 40, 50, 60, 65, and 80, each roughly three hours apart!

When the doctor stopped by late this afternoon, she told us that his weight gain this week has been on the low end, and she'd like to watch him a little longer to minimize the risk of re-hospitalization due to poor growth. However, given how well he's doing today, she made it clear that if we felt strongly about it, then we could bring him home. After a brief discussion, Christie and I decided that while it would be cute if Christie and Bryce shared a "birth"-day, we'd much rather wait a few days until everyone is confident that he'll thrive at home. So, we left empty-handed, but with a new found optimism; I'm sure Logan's teddy bear won't mind keeping the bassinet warm for a little longer.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Oh my gosh, it's a baby! (106 days)

We're coming to you live from the ICC overnight room at Children's Hospital, where Bryce is being cared for exclusively by Mommy and Daddy. No tubes, no nurses, no doctors -- just a crib, a few blankets, a portable apnea monitor and a couple of very excited parents!

In truth, I won't be able to post this message until we get home because of the draconian filtering policies in place on Children's computer networks (apparently, "blogger" is a dirty word). However, things are going great so far! Bryce gained a modest amount of weight (10 grams) after his first day of ad-lib feeding, and he seems to be doing good today as well.

Most of his tests were done yesterday. Bryce's eyes are still improving; in fact, they look good enough that the opthamologist considered scheduling his next appointment two weeks out, but decided to do one more weekly exam since he is still a few days shy of the magic "40 weeks" corrected age. More importantly, they've arranged his next appointment at their outpatient clinic!

The head ultrasound was normal, and his renal scan was pretty good too. The latter showed mild vesicoureteral reflux, which means that urine sometimes travels backward from his bladder to his kidneys (eww). Apparently, it's somewhat common in preemies, and the only thing they do at this stage is send him home on prophylactic antibiotics to prevent urinary tract infections. Unfortunately, this means Bryce gets to add a urologist to the growing list of specialists he'll be following up with regularly.

We reluctantly surrendered Bryce for a little over an hour in the afternoon so that he could do his car seat trial. He passed easily, but definitely did not enjoy it; I stood at his side and gently rocked the seat for the entire hour to keep him calm. Despite his surly attitude, I couldn't help but chuckle at the sight of tiny little Bryce in his huge car seat; he's so small that we have to use rolled-up blankets to keep him in place!

So, our little fighter has passed through his pre-discharge gauntlet with nary a scratch on him, and the doctor has officially certified him "ready-to-go". Now, we're just waiting for Bryce to show us that he can thrive on long-term (i.e., more than a day) ad-lib feedings. If he can push the needle on the scale past 2750 grams at midnight tonight, Christie may very well get the best birthday present ever, but even if tomorrow's not the day, all the staff seems confident that Bryce will skedaddle before the week is done. Regardless, Christie and I thoroughly enjoyed our long-awaited day with Bryce; when he's ready for us, we're ready for him.

Since Bryce is busy napping and I've got nothing better to do (hah!), here's a little more fun with numbers:
Total # of days in hospital
Mommy 120 (consecutive!)
Daddy 113 (stupid cold!)
Bryce 106
Annual healthcare cost to date
Bryce $965,227
Mommy $74,782
Daddy $121 (hah, I win!)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Anticipation (104 days)

It's shaping up to be a pretty busy week for Mr. Bryce. Today, big brother Logan visited for the first time since he moved to a crib, and the nurse snapped our first family photo (don't worry, no one's sick -- Logan is required to wear a mask and Christie wore one so he'd be more comfortable). During the next few days, Bryce is scheduled for a follow-up eye exam, brain scan, renal ultrasound and car seat trial. The latter, in which they test whether he can tolerate sitting up for extended periods by strapping Bryce into his car seat and wheeling him around the hospital for an hour, is one of the last steps before going home.

Tomorrow, they're going to start him on ad-lib feedings; instead of forcing Bryce to eat every three hours, he'll be allowed to nurse/bottle on demand. If he can demonstrate the ability to grow (i.e., gain weight), he will have satisfied all of the discharge criteria. Finally, Christie and I have scheduled the "overnight room" for the day on Wednesday. This will give us the opportunity to practice independently caring for Bryce while the nurses are only a few feet away.

If you've made it this far and still haven't picked up on my subtle hints, last week's doctor left the following note for the incoming doctor in Bryce's file: "Home at the end of the week?" Only Bryce knows the answer to that question, but we are hoping, praying, begging, pleading and cautiously optimistic that he won't see his shadow; the last thing we need is another six weeks of NICU. :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Back on track? (103 days)

The doctor gave Christie permission to get back to work today. Contrary to our fears, it doesn't seem like Bryce has regressed too much; he was absolutely frantic before his 2PM feeding, and settled back into nursing without any trouble. With any luck, his tummy will welcome the new cow-protein-free milk.

A few days on formula didn't seem to hamper Bryce's growth. He's packed on six ounces since Wednesday, and crossed the six pound mark yesterday! He's still doing great breathing on his own, and he looks fantastic.

Of course, we couldn't go three days without a little bad news. The audiologist tested Bryce's hearing this morning, and only his left ear passed. However, the hearing loss may be temporary, and to be honest, we were more relieved than upset. Christie and I knew that the jet ventilator which helped him breathe in the early days of his life could damage his hearing, so we were excited to learn that he has at least one good ear!

After I realized that I truly wasn't upset, I couldn't help but wonder at the fundamental paradigm shift Bryce has impelled in both of us. With Logan, we expected everything, and despaired at every minor eccentricity. With Bryce, we expect nothing, and are thankful for the "gifts" we previously took for granted. 'Tis a strange new world indeed.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just say boo to moo (100 days)

All of Bryce's tests came back negative, so he's been released from quarantine, and the current theory is that he's suffering from allergic colitis. Basically, Bryce's immature digestive system can't tolerate the proteins in cow's milk (and possibly soy as well); when Christie's diet includes those proteins, they end up in her milk. So, for the next 6-12 months, cow is a dirty word in the Sonnek household: no milk, butter, cheese, soy or other dairy products, nor any food containing them!

Neither of us has spent much time reading ingredient labels in the past, and we were shocked to discover how many foods contain either milk or soy. I expected to forgo ice cream, but sherbet and sorbet too?! That's harsh. We scoured the bread aisle at Cub Foods for ten minutes before we found an acceptable loaf of bread, but I'm happy to report that rice milk is different, but not entirely unpleasant.

Oh, and if you needed any further reassurance that Bryce is doing relatively well, consider this: one hundred days ago, I was terrified that our son wouldn't survive the night. Today, I'm terrified that I might not get cookies & cream on a sugar cone until 2010. I think we're moving in the right direction.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The GI bug strikes back (99 days)

Just when we thought it was safe to relax a bit, Bryce's GI issues resurfaced with a vengeance. His earlier loose stools, which had at most a hint of pink, have now become more blood than stool. A complete workup has been ordered, and he'll be put back in isolation; furthermore, they've asked Christie to start a completely dairy-free diet, which (all kidding aside) will be no mean feat for her. Worse yet, for the next few days, they're going to switch Bryce to formula instead of milk, which will almost certainly disrupt his feeding routine. I have great empathy for any of our readers who want to scream "enough already!"

Fortunately, Bryce looks like a million-dollar baby; he's not showing any other signs that would lead us to believe he's sick. He's been off the nasal cannula since yesterday afternoon, and although his oxygen saturation has occasionally drifted into the high-80's (they want it to be 90% or higher), he has not had any apneic spells that would indicate that he needs it back. As a show of support for Christie, I've vowed to give up ice cream until Bryce recovers; let's hope her sacrifice is enough to calm his tiny tummy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Look Mom, no tubes! (98 days)

Bryce's nasal cannula was removed at 1:30 this afternoon (see pic above), and when we left the hospital at 3, he was still doing great! Christie and I were thrilled, since we were convinced that he'd be sent home with a portable oxygen tank due to (hopefully temporary) lung damage caused by the ventilators during the first six weeks of his life. Now, the only tube he has left is his feeding tube, which is being used less with each passing day and will almost certainly be removed before he's discharged.

However, we do know that our little champ will be coming home on an apnea monitor, so he'll be less portable than your typical newborn. The device constantly monitors Bryce's respiration and heart rates, and emits a shrill alarm if a problem (low/high heart rate, no breathing) is detected. We spent most of the day at the hospital learning how to operate the monitor and respond to alarms, including an infant CPR class that stirred up some unpleasant memories. It's comforting to know that we won't have to worry that Bryce will quietly stop breathing in the middle of the night, but it's also unnerving to learn that the probability of such an event occurring during the first month or two of his life is high enough that the cost of the monitor is warranted. In reality, it likely means that in addition to the typical rude awakenings associated with a hungry baby, we'll get some bonus late-night jolts when our squirmy bundle of joy displaces a lead and triggers a false alarm. I'm sure we won't be the first parents to sleep in shifts. :)