January 15, 2011

Bells and Whistles

If there's one thing that invades my dreams more than anything else these days, it's the constant beeping and dinging sounds of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

There are always alarms going off somewhere for some baby. Most of the alarms are minor notices indicating O2 levels are too high or too low, and those alarms usually ebb and flow without much excitement on the part of the nurses and doctors; it's just the everyday harmony they've grown to expect in the NICU. For me, on the other hand, each bleep, ding or buzz is cause to swallow my heart back down my throat.

I'll admit I've gotten more used to the alarms, and I'm starting to discern which are common and which are less so, but they all leave me slightly stricken because they are, after all, alarms, and alarms by and large have been a source of concern throughout my life.

I've become so attuned to some NICU alarms, I can actually tell which are emanating from Zoey's room, even when I'm down a hallway some 50 feet away; the automatic doors to the NICU swing open and right away I can hear the chorus of beeps and dings and my ears know just which are trumpeting forth from Zoey's room. It's almost uncanny.

I imagine, if Finn were still alive in the room next to his sister's, I would also have developed an ear for his unique rhythm. As it is, I only have the memory of his nearly constant orchestra of foreboding alarms. The theme for "Jaws" had nothing on the sound of Finn's vital alarms going off almost in perpetuity. By comparison, Zoey's vital alarm score could be the theme to "Brian's Song."

It's surprising just how those beeps and dings have worked their way into my subconscious. I can fall asleep in front of the TV, and a certain note in a certain song or background noise will wake me bolt upright.

I'm like Pavlov's dog, without the eventual treat.

Posted by Ryan at January 15, 2011 08:46 PM | TrackBack
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