Sept 13, 2010 - I left the NICU at 5p. Nolan was all tucked in and Eli had been a little fussy, which was unusual for him but I had held him and he finally quieted and fell asleep. I was exhausted. Still healing from my c-section and going from one boy's room to the other to help with their cares every 3 hrs, holding them once a day, making sure they both knew I was here... So I decided to sleep at home on the night of the 13th. I went to bed at 8p. At 11p my cell phone rang. It was the call. It was one of the drs in the NICU. It was Eli. He had necrotizing enterocolitis - NEC. I believe I went into shock right then and there - automatic pilot. I knew something was wrong when I left the hospital. I just knew it. The dr said I didn't need to come back immediately. Yeah, like I could go back to sleep at home. I got out of bed, googled NEC and took a shower. I knew that it would be sometime before I would take another one. I drove myself to the hospital leaving a message for the boys' father on voice mail.
I spent the night in Eli's room, refusing to leave. I was there when they saw blood in his diaper. I was there was they x-rayed his abdomen. I was there when they had to intubate him because he was working too hard to breathe. They told me I should leave the room then because it can be difficult to watch. I refused. If he had to go through it, the least I could do as his mother was to bear witness to it. I just wanted to scream at them to stop hurting my baby, but I didn't.
Sept 14, 2010 - At 6am the boys' father called me back and I explained what was going on with Eli. I remember telling him that Eli could die, though I don't think I really believed those words at that time. He came to the hospital. After that I don't know what time anything happened. I called my mom to let her know. I texted some close friends asking them for prayers and to send light, love and healing. I helped with Nolan's cares and held him. I had to make sure he knew he was not being abandoned even though I was spending so much time with Eli. I sat next to Eli's isolette and talked to him. Telling him how thankful and grateful I was that he chose me as his mother. I told him not that he was in my heart but that he was my heart. And I told him that I wanted him to stay if he could but if he couldn't it would be okay, I would understand. I touched him like even the smallest of touches would give him strength. I focused on sending him everything I had to help him make it through. My mom drove up from Tucson. I imagine I ate. Later at night the dr wanted to put him on a oscillating ventilator to help him breathe. He was having problems keeping his oxygen levels up. I watched as his heart rate went up and his blood pressure continued to drop. I don't know how many medications he was on now but the I remember how the little gray boxes were lined up in a row next to his isolette. The oscillating ventilator seemed to help. The symptoms of his decline slowed though the last xray showed that the NEC had spread to most of his intestines.
Sep 15, 2010 - I believe Eli knew I needed sleep which is why the ventilator worked for awhile, seeming to balance things. So I slept a couple of hours in that early morning. I woke up to a lot of talk in his room. They were ordering blood transfusions. Platelets first then whole blood. His blood pressure had dropped to 15. (they combine the two numbers somehow when taking an infants blood pressure. I don't know how but I knew 15 was low) But it just kept dropping all the way down to 11. I asked to be near him and the drs response was "You are the most important piece to all of this. He needs you." They cleared the space for me, brought me a chair, adjusted his bed and worked around me. When I sat with Eli things quieted. Nothing improved but nothing got worse. I know he felt me. I don't know how long I was there but when I left his side his stats began to drop. I sat on the couch and stared as he went into cardiac failure. I saw them doing compressions on his tiny little body. I heard them call for an "epi" and another one and another one. Until it was quiet. They had resuscitated him. I went back to Eli's isolette and sat with him, telling him how much I loved him. Within 10 minutes he started to crash again. The doctor asked me if they should resuscitate again. I knew the answer immediately. Why would I force him to go through that again? I said no. After I answered I felt a hand go deep into my body and pull out the most gut wrenching cry I have ever cried. It was a scream, the sound of pure, absolute, undiluted grief. I looked around numbly at the doctors and nurses in the room. There was not a single dry eye. Everyone in the room was mourning my son. Quickly they disconnected him from everything. Turning off the monitor, they placed him in the star blanket I had bought for him, handed him to me and quietly left the room. That was it. I held his tiny little body in my arms - kissing him, rocking him, talking to him, he died. He died in my arms.
Out of the many things I will remember from these 36 hours one of the most beautiful is the tears in the eyes of Eli's medical team that morning. Everyone was shocked at his quick decline. He had been so healthy and doing so well before NEC hit him. They felt the pain of his death. It touched me.
"Probably the most stressful and anxiety-provoking act in human existence is the separation of a woman from her newborn infant. The response to this, which humans share with most of the animal kingdom, is an overwhelming combination of panic, rage, and distress." - RUSKIN, IN HORCHLER AND MORRIS 1994,16