Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The worst day of my life

One year ago, on January 2nd at about 9 pm, we rushed 17-day old Elliott to the ER after he turned blue while nursing. He was admitted to the hospital as a precaution. At 2:00 am on January 3rd he stopped breathing. The next 12 hours were the worst of my entire life. He stopped breathing 6 times and each time his heart rate dropped drastically. He spiked a fever. They started an IV, started high-pressure oxygen, took a chest x-ray and rushed us to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit where we would stay for 10 days. They did a spinal tap on my 7 pound newborn. They drew vials and vials of blood. They took a urine sample. They took a nasal swab. They started him on 2 antibiotics and an antiviral. They did an EEG. They did an ultrasound of his brain. They scheduled him for an MRI. It would be 2 days before we knew that a sepsis infection had nearly taken his life. Less than 1% of newborns get sepsis and the fatality rate is 50%. Elliott got sepsis because he was a premature baby and his immune system wasn't prepared to fight the e.coli bacteria that infected his urinary tract before infecting his blood and causing a systemic inflammatory response. Elliott survived sepsis because he is destined for greatness.
That was my status update on facebook tonight. 

I included this picture:
Healthy, smiling, happy 1-year old Elliott is in stark contrast to very, very, very seriously ill 17-day old Elliott last year:
I took one single picture on January 2nd.  That one.  I had been worried about Elliott all day.  There was nothing specific.  Just a nagging feeling that something wasn't quite right.  He was a little too sleepy.  His latch and suck were a little too weak.  I even called the help line at our pediatrician's office around 5:00 pm.  We already had an appointment the next morning and because there were no specific symptoms (no fever, no vomiting) we decided we'd just wait until the next day to get him checked on. 
We ate dinner, got ready for bed and around 8:30 I nursed Elliott. I started on the left and when I switched sides from my left to my right he let out a high-pitched, ear-splitting scream.  Can you imagine how much pain he had to have been in?  It was when he was nursing on the right that I noticed that his skin had turned white, his lips were blue, the bridge of his nose was blue and his fingernails had turned dark purple.
That did it.  We called Megan, asked her to meet us at the ER, threw some stuff in a bag for Spencer, we all climbed in the car and then Michael sped off to the freeway.  I spent the entire ride poking and thumping on Elliott making sure he was still breathing.
Michael and I were talking the other day about what was the worst day of our whole lives.  It came down to two options: January 3rd, 2012 or January 19th, 2012.  January 3rd was the day that the nurses came running and screaming into our room in the middle of the night and scooped our 2 week old out of bed and started pounding on his chest.  It was the day we watched our lifeless newborn get a hole drilled into his tiny spine in order to fill a test tube with his spinal fluid.  It was also the day the PICU doctor avoided eye contact and solemnly told us that Elliott's condition was extremely critical.  January 19th was the day that our pediatrician called me at home and told me there was something very seriously wrong with Elliott's liver and I needed to get him to Phoenix Children's Hospital that day for an emergency ultrasound.  It was the day that Michael sped home from work and my mom got in her car and drove to our house all the way from Tucson and forgot to even pack anything to bring with her.
Both days are crystal clear in my memory.  I think they always will be.  But January 3rd wins as the worst day ever.  No doubt about it.  I could probably be tortured by a foreign military and while it would obviously be awful, I would pick that over watching what at the time we believed was our baby dying. 
  2012 was a craptastic year (mostly) for us.  No matter what misfortune we may encounter for the rest of our lives, it will be manageable because of what happened 1 year ago. 
And it is definitely cause for Elliott to pause when he considers becoming a moody and defiant teenager.
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Maryellen said...

Oh my goodness Natalie! I am so happy for you and your family about how 2012 ended...with two happy and healthy boys. The way it began and lasted for awhile must have been horrific. May this year be fantastic for all of you!!!!

Jeannette said...

I still get emotional hearing about this whole experience. It brings me back to terrifying NICU days and unforgettable alarm sounds. It also reminds me just how amazing our babies are (okay, fine.. other people's babies are amazing too, but OUR babies are extraordinary!).

Here's wishing you guys a boring, uninteresting 2013.

papa & grandma said...

It just bring tears to both our eyes when we were reading this. We just thank God and all the prayers that were said for Elliott.He is such a strong baby. Can't imagine him not being with us. You two are the most greatest parents and you make us proud.LOL Papa and Grandma

Cat said...

Even knowing everything turned out okay, it's still sad to read that. I'm so glad Elliott is okay now.