Born very prematurely… the brutal early days of a newborn girl.

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She came very, very early, she was very small, and it was all very stressful…

Received into the offices at the Bore, the true story behind Baby Jen’s first few days. Penned by her fair self.

Dear Mr Bore,

Now I’m a fit and healthy four-month-old baby, I would like to take this opportunity to correct some of the mistakes you made in your original article about my entry into this world.

I was born on 26/12 at 1923 hrs. My dear old mother had been admitted three days previously with ruptured membranes (whatever they are). Given I was a wee bit early the doctors had to give her two doses of steroid therapy (which apparently helps the lungs of premature babies develop a bit) before she went into labour.

Lucky for her it was a normal delivery, with some rather nice doctors hovering close by, ready to do a crash Caesarean at any moment. Straight after I emerged the ‘retrieval’ team (paediatricians and special care baby unit nurses, not dustmen) who had been hiding in the background now suddenly came to the fore.

Not breathing, I had to have air pumped in to my lungs using a squeezy bag over my mouth. Later (joy of joys) a tube was put rammed down my throat so that oxygen could be puffed directly in to inflate my lungs. My Mum then gave me the briefest of kisses before I was whisked off to the neonatal intensive care unit (at top speed I might add, those porters can really move).

In my notes written at the time, it said ‘baby cold and dusky on admission’ which was indicative of poor oxygen perfusion (nearly dead to you and me). My weight at birth was 911g, which is probably the last time I worry about being too thin.

Anyway I was dumped into an incubator, and started on a ventilator (to get me breathing again). I also sampled my first drugs; starting on an infusion of morphine which kept me sedated and helped me to cope with all the painful procedures I endured (like having blood taken, when there wasn’t that much to give).

I then had special ‘lines’ put in through my tummy button which would later be used to give drugs and food (which did save all that sucking I have to do now). By that night, even though ventilated, my condition was still very unstable, and the doctors tried various techniques such as oscillation therapy in an attempt to keep sufficient oxygen levels in my blood.

My second drug hit was the newish ‘wonder’ drug Surfactant, but I did not respond to the first two doses and things looked pretty bleak. I even had a “proper” condition. The poor lung function was due to ‘respiratory distress syndrome’.

Next morning mum was visited by an exhausted looking consultant who gently informed her that the outlook was pretty poor unless the lungs improved, and that the next 48hrs were crucial. Mum went home that morning convinced that I was going to die. However, the fight continued – and I was given yet another dose of Surfactant (good stuff, although I saw no flying pink elephants). This time hey presto! My lungs started to inflate more and in that area at least there was some improvement.

However my dreams of nappies, baby grows and vomiting over relatives were short lived. Blood tests revealed that I had septicaemia (blood poisoning), itself a life threatening condition. Having conditions was becoming a bore. My hands and feet were blue, and almost transparent, but thankfully the doctors had already made an educated guess that if there was another condition going I would have it, and started me on the correct antibiotic. At one point I had a white cell count of 84,000 (normal range up to about 10,000) and a platelet level of 9,000 (normal level about 150-450,000) which meant I could have bled to death at any moment. You have to laugh…well, maybe not.

Over the next two weeks the struggle continued, and I was given blood transfusions, regular antibiotics and a special type of food called TPN, straight into a vein. On the 4th of January they took the breathing tube out of my throat and I was put onto CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). This meant having a really tight mask on my face so my nose was squashed up somewhere between my eyebrows. Boy, was I attractive at that point. That said, at least my lungs continued to gain strength and over the next couple of weeks I breathed more and more on my own.

Food at last

On the 8th of January I was given my first real food. This came by a tube up my nose and into my tummy and consisted of ½ ml of expressed breast milk over 4 hours (an even smaller amount than in your average McDonalds). This was a big deal as it was the first time my digestive system had had to work independently. Fortunately I didn’t end up with the complication of NEC (Necrotising Entero-Colitis), which is a shame since that would have almost completed the “condition” collection.

I needn’t have worried about missing out on too many conditions though, because on 28th of January – more doom and gloom. I had caught RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). This could have been fatal to a baby of my size, but luckily I had been vaccinated and managed to combat the infection after a week of rest and care (although I couldn’t do much else being strapped into an incubator. Night clubbing was certainly a no-no).

Premature baby first bath

Things finally began to look up. By the 1st of February I was no longer on CPAP and the only help to my lungs now was a dribble of oxygen given to me by two prongs up my nose. On the 7th Feb I tested RSV negative and was moved from the ‘hot’ nursery to the ‘cold’ nursery (and boy was that a shock).

For the next 5 weeks I was fattened up with mum’s breast milk and Nutriprem, helped occasionally by some oxygen. I put on about an ounce a day and began to take on the appearance of a normal cuddly baby.


On the 12th March – on a fine and sunny day – I was finally allowed home. I weighed 5lb 11oz, all my clothes were too big. Dad said I looked like Kenny out of South Park! But everybody was pleased to have me home . However sometimes I do miss the peace and quiet of the ward, not having to scream for my food or a nappy change, and as for those doctors…

Anyway, I hope this has helped you understand a bit more of what I went through Mr Bore. I had better go now as my Mum doesn’t realise I know how to use the computer, or walk or talk for that matter, so I wouldn’t want her to catch me typing.

Yours truly,

Jen

See here for a more traditional birth story

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