Jun 12, 2017

Tiny but Mighty -- Part Two


On his 10th day with us J and I headed to a nearby mall to have coffee with a friend and do some shopping. It was a Saturday and before our friend arrived J and I quickly ran to a shop to pick up shoes for his eldest brother in the house. I had a pair of sandals in my hand when J made a noise I had not heard him make before. It sounded like a weird burp/hiccup which I now understand was an attack of his severe acid reflux causing the vitamins he had had at home to come back up, uninvited, into his throat. Instead of being able to swallow it back down J breathed in the fluid and stopped breathing. I began to count, fully expecting to hear an intake at “five” but by the time I reached “ten” I began to worry. I quickly pulled him from the wrap and moved him about and he drew a sharp breath in and then began to breathe normally. I was concerned but he was acting normally so we went on to our coffee date.  At brunch J was sleepy and not super interested in eating (which happened from time to time) so I put him back in the wrap and we headed to the grocery store, our last stop for the day. Here in South Africa it is common to have to pay for parking at shopping centers and malls. When you enter the lot you receive a ticket and then on the way out you pay for your parking at a machine near the entrance. I always, ALWAYS, put the Parking ticket in the very same place in my wallet but when it came time for us to leave the mall I could not find my ticket. I began to grumble internally at my “ baby brain” and made my way to the nearest information desk. It took about 15 minutes to get everything sorted by the time we got to the car I was hot and harried. I quickly unloaded our groceries and then went to put J into his car seat. When I pulled him from the wrap he was floppy and not breathing! I immediately ripped off his clothes and began saying his name and doing my best to rouse him. I laid him flat in one arm and used my knuckles to rub his chest along his sternum and he finally drew in a sharp breath. By this time, I was properly scared and drove the 15 minutes home listening for every breath and asking God for wisdom. It was only later that I began to realize the Grace that protected us that afternoon. Had I not “lost” my parking ticket there is a very good chance that I would have arrived at home only to find a dead baby strapped securely into the car seat behind me.


Once we were home I began watching him like a hawk and giving him 30 minutes to either take a turn for the better or we were going to head to the hospital. Unfortunately, our babies do not have the luxury of Private Health Care and all our emergency medical needs are met by a government hospital that is about 45 minutes away from our home. It is a training hospital where there are well trained (and being trained) doctors and specialists but the moment to moment care provided by the Sisters on duty is patchy and sometimes downright scary. Due to this truth I rarely take a baby to the emergency room unless I am confident that the baby needs to be admitted. After being home for another 20 minutes or so and attempting a feed J stopped breathing again. I stopped counting after reaching “45” so I could lay this floppy, treasured baby down in my arms to start CPR. I could feel his tiny heart beating sporadically as I covered his mouth and nose with mouth and gave 2 short puffs. I waited and then blew another set of short puffs and by the grace of God J finally drew in a ragged breath. “Three strikes you are out” I said to myself and rushed into the house to hand him to Auntie Karabelo (our only Auntie medically trained who just “happened” to be on duty that day) so I could call Sister Didi (our clinic Sister who lives on site) to come and check J and frantically pack a bag for the hospital.

By the time I got the bag packed for J and grabbed a few things for myself Sister Didi had woken herself up from a nap (precious sweetheart that she is) and was listening to his chest with her stethoscope. She confirmed that an immediate trip to the emergency room was required, she waked us to the car and quickly prayed for us as Auntie Karabelo settled into the backseat with J in her arms. I jumped behind the wheel and began the longest trip to the hospital in all my days. The car was quiet at both of J’s Aunties hung on each of his nasally breaths. I prayed and tried to concentrate on driving speedily but working hard to not cross over into the realm of unsafe driving. It is a desperate kind of regret that grips your heart as you speed by much closer private hospitals as you rush towards the best option you have to offer your baby. After a terse 40-ish minute drive I dropped off Karabelo and J at the entrance to casualties and proceed to park the car. Thanking our good God the entire way; for traveling mercies and that J had made it to the hospital without having another apnea on the way.

Getting a baby admitted into a public hospital is a dicey and difficult process to navigate and even as I approached casualties I began to pray for mercy and favor that our little man would actually be admitted to receive the care he needed. Once you open a file you then are instructed to either wait in a room or in the general waiting area until you can be seen by the team of students and doctors assigned to your child’s case. Sisters will come and go but for the most part you sit alone with your sick baby waiting to be seen. When J first arrived his vitals all registered within a normal range, so they let him lie under a warmer but did not attach him to any oxygen or a SATS machine to monitor his vitals. Needless to say I spent my watching him intently and praying that the Lord would allow the doctors to see what they needed to see. After 2 hours or so the student doctor finally arrived to get J’s story and to fill in the details of his file. As I am sharing his medical history and describing the events of the day I look over to see him not breathing and turning grey. “Just like this” I say and the as the doctor goes to rouse him J pulls in a breath and begins to breathe normally. She quickly grabs the oxygen tube from the wall, attaches a new nasal cannula to the tube and puts our little man on the much appreciated oxygen to help him breathe easier. She then confirmed what I knew: that our J needed to be admitted to the hospital immediately. We heard later that week that another baby home in the area had brought in an infant to that very same hospital a few days before we brought J in. He had had breathing problems at home but by the time he got to the hospital his vitals were normal. They sent him home with the diagnosis of a chest infection and a prescription for antibiotics. Tragically that little man died at the home just two days later. I praise the Lord that He allowed J to have one last apnea in front of the right person so that we could be admitted. In all the time at the hospital in the coming days J never had another apnea! But we spent two long weeks getting to bottom of and recovering from his breathing trauma we encountered that day.


I don’t think that words can adequately describe the experience of having your baby admitted to a ward of any hospital, let alone a public one; it is a mother’s perfectly designed torture. At least that is how I feel. Saying that, I logically know how blessed we are to even have legitimate hospital in our area to take our babies to. I know that millions of mothers and babies don’t even have access to a clinic, let alone a hospital where we received CT and Milk Scans, visited a Cardiac Clinic, received a Cranial Sonar and had numerous blood tests and results taken. All that being said our time on the ward was torture: heart breaking, demoralizing, physically and emotionally demanding, monotonous torture...

Part Three coming soon! Thanks for checking in! Lots of love!

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