January 09, 2011

And. . . breathe

Today marked a milestone for my daughter, Zoey, as she made the transition off the standard respirator, and she seems to be responding well. This could change within the hour, of course, since all progress should be acknowledged with the understanding things can occur requiring a rollback. Just as Zoey had to briefly be put back on an oscillating respirator earlier this week so, too, can she again require the regular ventilator.

For now, at least, there's a brief window of time to sit back, sigh, and just enjoy this bit of good fortune floating in the sea of bad luck sewage that has been the hallmark of the last week and-a-half. The way things have gone, I wouldn't be surprised to learn her NICU room is constructed entirely of asbestos, thus increasing her risk of mesothelioma or something.

Unfortunately, the tragic turn of events that greeted us at the end of December, as well as the gaping hole left in our lives by Finn's passing, has numbed my wife and me considerably when it comes to the sheer medical miracle that Zoey is still with us and fighting strong. We've been so mired in grief and sorrow, the everyday fact of Zoey's continued existence almost seems like it's the least fate could give us. Nay, owes us.

But, she is alive. And, it is rather miraculous.

She was delivered via C-section at a paltry 1 lb. 4.5 oz. I like to use the analogy of her being the size of a TV remote control, but that doesn't really convey the reality. Her tiny size didn't register for me until I saw her footprints alongside the footprints of my first son, Aiden, when he was born at 8 lb. 15 oz. The difference is truly staggering, like Andre the Giant next to Vern Troyer. And I remember thinking, 15 months ago, how the hell we were going to keep AIDEN ALIVE.

The delicate balance of drugs, medications, fluids, oxygen and general environment required to keep a 24-week old preemie alive is ridiculously complex. Each time I visit Zoey, I have to practically squint past the banks of machines and monitors to see the little wriggling putty of flesh that is my daughter.

The first five or six times I visited the twins in their incubators, I wept uncontrollably, because it honestly didn't seem possible anything could keep them clinging to life for the next four days, to say nothing of the next four months. This pessimism was not helped in the least when Finn died within two days. If anything, Finn put an exclamation point on the seeming impossibility of it all.

And yet Zoey is now breathing on her own, and I can't help but root for the little spitfire. I mean, she was obviously frazzled by the transition, but in a completely inadvertent flail of her arms today, it almost looked as if she was flipping something off. Possibly the odds.

Preemie babies are obviously dealt a supremely shitty hand, and the earlier they arrive, you're practically praying they're holding onto at least a pair of twos.

And yet, something remarkable happens. The lungs, which are about the most undeveloped organs in their whole bodies, can somehow be persuaded to kick things into developmental gear. It's not an exact science, but the organs that are normally one of the last ones asked to perform can be coaxed from the bench and perform a game-saving series of plays that can make even the most die-hard pessimist hope, optimistically, for a victory. Preemie lungs are the Detroit Lions or the Cincinnati Bengals, or an expansion team.

Today was a good day. A much-needed good day. For all of us.

Tomorrow? Who the fuck knows?

But, you know what? I'm hopeful, and that's huge. At least until I'm informed about the NICU asbestos and mesothelioma thing. I kid, I kid.


Posted by Ryan at January 9, 2011 10:39 PM | TrackBack

My nephew Will was a preemie. He wasn't quite as premature as Zoey, but he ended up on a respirator as well. He's now a happy, jumpy little boy in Kindergarten.

I have every confidence that you will see Miss Zoey running barefoot in the yard in just a couple of years.

Posted by: Keith at January 10, 2011 09:03 AM

Ryan, my wife and I are cheering for Zoey's continued improvement.

And your writing deserves special mention these last few weeks. Excellent storytelling. I'm sure it's been very difficult, but it has been very good.

Posted by: MojoMark at January 10, 2011 01:57 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!