This has taken me ages to write, mostly because I can’t fully go back to the experience and after looking at photos today, well, I couldn’t even look at some of them, which is why what I’m about to write is so amazing. One word pretty much sums it up and that word is…..P E A C E.
Our precious little baby boy was four weeks old on the 9th of February 2012. It was really just like any other day in the life of new parents. Nic went to work, and I went to hang out with my two sister’s just around the corner, before going home and doing the usual routine of feeding Chadd, eating dinner, and then collapsing on the lounge till 10pm when I would feed Chadd again. Nic was watching this weird show on TV where people were pretty much employed to reposses other people’s cars. In a way – sadly – it did have a funny side, but mostly it was a bit rubbish. (Sorry Nic!) I went to get Chadd out of his cradle and unwrapped him to find him burning hot. It was a pretty warm night so I thought that maybe I overheated him a little, but still something didn’t seem right. He had been extra sleepy for days now and wasn’t eating as much as he usually did, plus I had noticed his skin had been really splotchy for a few days as well. I took his temperature as I started to feed him and it was over 38 degrees. That’s when I rang my Mum, who told me to ring the Health Nurse Helpline. The Nurse I spoke to was lovely and after asking to listen to his breathing her words were, “I don’t want you to be alarmed, but I’m calling an ambulance right now.” I didn’t really panic until then, but it all hit me as she kept on speaking, and I had no idea what she was saying. All I remember after that was her giving me a list of do’s and don’ts until the ambulance got there. One of which was don’t feed him (which I had stopped doing anyway) and if he vomits, lay him on his side, to which I looked over at Nic, who was now holding a screaming Chadd, who had vomited about 5 times during the conversation all over the floor.
When the ambulance got there, they checked his temperature and other vital signs before commenting that he seemed to be doing pretty good. They took us to the hospital while Nic followed in the car, and sat us in a chair in the hallway to wait for a doctor. It wasn’t long until a nurse came and took us into a consultation room, where she checked Chadd before putting us into another room to wait for a doctor. She said he seemed alright but we still weren’t assured as we sat in that room waiting. After seeing a doctor, who suggested that perhaps he had a urine infection and they would admit him overnight to keep an eye on him, we felt a little better. The doctor did, however, leave us to wait for a paedeatrician to look over Chadd. Once we saw a paediatrician, which, thank God we didn’t have to wait very long for, as there was one on duty, she let me feed Chadd. He was still crying and worked up from before we left home and after he’d finished feeding he settled down and fell asleep in my arms.
We didn’t feel better for long as it wasn’t long before the doctor expressed her concern over Chadd’s condition, pointing out that his blotchy skin was probably a sign he wasn’t getting enough oxygen into his blood. They took him into the emergency ward where they laid him on a bed before he was surrounded by doctors and nurses. That’s when the tests started. There first aim was to get a drip into him but after they couldn’t get a needle into any of his veins because they said he was too dehydrated, they had to drill into his shin bone to get a drip straight into his bone. Before they started, we were told to leave and they let us into the nurse’s tea room which wasn’t far from Chadd’s bed. I ended up spending most the time outside because I couldn’t bare to hear Chadd’s continuous screams and cries. This went on for a few hours, which felt like forever and Nic and I ended up dozing on and off outside on a wooden bench. After we went back in, the head peadiatrician told us that it was good we got Chadd to hospital when we did because he had deteriorated very quickly in the last couple of hours. They did more tests and ruled out meningitis along with a few other things and we ended up waiting outside again. We got to the hospital about 11pm and it was around 5am before they had finished running tests and hooking Chadd up to various drips and tubes. He finally went to sleep and Nic and I sat by his bed and dozed until a nurse came and said I could feed Chadd. This time it was awkward, as we had to lay him flat on a pillow in my lap and tilt his head so we didn’t bump any drips or touch the huge needle coming out of his shin bone. I noticed as I was feeding him that every time he breathed out, he would grunt as if he was struggling or in pain. I asked the nurse about it, but she said it was just because he was tired…I knew it was more than that, and he continued to do it from then on which was completely awful to see. They finally took us into the children’s ward where we waited until about 8am to see a doctor again. They ended up hooking him up to a machine to monitor his breathing, oxygen levels and heartbeat, which, we found out later was a pretty big deal they did so.
The nurses were great and very friendly and encouraging. We sat by Chadd all day, occasionally leaving to get some food or fresh air. Chadd slept most the time and I was allowed to feed him on and off during the day. He was still grunting and every breath seemed like an effort but by night time he seemed to pick up a little which lifted our spirits. I started feeling quite hopeful and relieved that he seemed to be getting better but after I was woken a few hours later to give him his late night/early morning feed, he stopped breathing. I had no idea and it wasn’t until the monitor he was hooked up to started beeping and the nurse rushed over, pulled him off me, and started ruffing him up that I realized what was happening. He started breathing again on his own quite quickly, so we put him back into his bed and I went back to sleep beside him. It didn’t take long for me to go back to sleep but a couple of times during the night I heard his monitor go off and a nurse would rush over to his side to rough him up to get him breathing again. When I woke up a couple of hours later to his monitor going off again, I was met by two nurses who didn’t say anything but the look of concern on their faces and their soft words between each other let me know that he had only gotten worse. They let me feed him again but this was the last time I got to feed him for the next four days as he was quickly peeled off me when the monitor started beeping yet again. They said he was having Apneas – where he would stop breathing for a short amount of time but usually would start again by himself. They also thought it might be related to him feeding which is why I had to stop. The set up some oxygen next to him for just in case, and after the doctor came around that morning she said they just didn’t know what was wrong and he would have to be flown to Sydney. That’s when we were flooded with huge waves of panic and uncertainty. They wanted to take him away to radiology to scan his brain and make sure there were no lesions. Since radiology wasn’t at the hospital they had to transfer him to an ambulance but they were a little bit concerned he may not be stable enough for the trip. After a couple of hours they took him down and we followed in our car behind the ambulance. When we got there we waited while they took him out of the ambulance and as they did, I noticed they had had to put an oxygen mask on him. They didn’t say anything about it to us though and we weren’t allowed to go in to the scan with him, so we waited for what seemed like another couple of hours in the waiting room. I think Nic and I both were in a bit of a daze by now and couldn’t keep our eyes open for more then a few seconds while we sat there waiting. I never thought a mix of a chair, a wall and Nic’s shoulder would make such a great bed!
The scan went well and by lunch time we were back up at the hospital waiting on a helicopter to be organised. We had lots of visits from family which was great support, but it was always so unnerving when a nurse would come up and check on Chadd looking very worried saying to us, “He’s so sick and it’s very worrying – we don’t know what’s wrong with him.” By now Chadd’s temperature was so high they wouldn’t let us dress him and he was just laying on the bed with tubes coming out everywhere, shivering, grunting, and crying. We weren’t allowed to hold him because he was too sick to really move. I cannot put in words how horrid and distressing it was to not be able to do anything, not know anything and wonder if he was going to make it through or not. All we could do was stand beside him and stroke his burning little head and hold his hand that was almost continuously clenched – maybe with pain – we didn’t even know what he was feeling. Just looking at him was heart wrenching enough.
The first helicopter for Chadd was called away to another emergency at the last minute before it arrived so we had to wait a bit longer for a team to arrive to transfer him. I think it was about 5pm when the NETS team walked through the doors. They seemed to be a bit more in control than the nurses in the ward but I’d say that’s because they do that sort of thing every day! While they were getting everything ready to transfer Chadd, his plane had almost made it to Dubbo but had to turn around due to bad weather. This actually turned out to be quite a good thing though! They ended up sending the plane a bit later and while we were waiting for it to arrive, they began to put Chadd into his little chariot for the trip to Sydney. It was basically a Humidity crib with stacks of equipment underneath and around it. Just as they laid him inside, but before they had shut the door on it, he stopped breathing and his monitor went crazy. This time he didn’t start breathing by himself and they quickly whipped him out, laid him on the bed and started bagging him. It took a minute or two before he started breathing again but this is when the amazingness of the whole experience kicked in. By now, heaps of prayer requests had been sent out for Chadd and people all over the place were praying for him. While Nic and I were standing next to his limp little body on the bed and they were bagging him, we were overcome with so much peace I can’t explain it. It sounds silly to say and doesn’t even make sense at a time when naturally we would have been completely distraught and beside ourselves with panic, but we had such a peace and confidence that he would be ok. He started breathing again but this is when they decided to put him on life support and promptly sent us out so we didn’t have to see or hear anything. They explained to us after that if the plane that was coming for him had made it on time, that moment when he stopped breathing would have been on the plane and it would have been much more difficult to get him to start breathing again.
The plane landed at last and we drove behind the ambulance carrying Chadd to the airport were the plane was waiting. It was about 8pm by now. It took a little while to install Chadd into the plane, but once he was in, we were off to Sydney. Nic was a few hours behind us driving by car and while I’m not the biggest fan of flying, and while it was not nice circumstances in any way, I was so at peace the entire time, I would probably say it was the best flight I’ve had. We got to the airport and were met by another ambulance to take us the hour drive to Westmead hospital. I don’t really remember much of the drive because by now I couldn’t keep my eyes open even though I tried very hard to! We got to Westmead and walked up to the Grace unit where Chadd was staying for the next couple of days. It took another little while to transfer Chadd from the humidity crib to his crib in the Grace Unit. There were so many extra tubes and monitors and equipment to attach! A bunch of doctors were going to come and see him later that night to run some more tests – one of which was to check that his bowels hadn’t twisted. Chadd’s nurse sent me to bed and told me she would call in a couple of hours to let me know how the test went. I think it was about 3am when I woke up to the phone ringing and she said all was clear. I went straight back to sleep for a few hours before forcing myself out of bed the next morning.
Chadd was stable now. Still on life support and still the doctors didn’t know what was wrong, but as I sat by his bed and slipped my finger into his tiny little fist, he clenched it tight. He was pretty heavily sedated and it was so much more comforting now, knowing that he couldn’t feel any pain and he was relaxed. His nurse came in after the doctors came around to see him that morning and got him out of his crib to lay him in my arms for our first cuddle in the last 24 hours. It was lovely. Nic arrived at the hospital then and for the rest of the day we sat by Chadd’s bedside with his little hands wrapped around our fingers. occasionally we would pop out to get some food or settle into our accomodation for the next few days.
That peace that had so overwhelmed us the day before was still with us and we could feel the prayers of everyone who was praying. While we were completely exhausted with only a few hours of sleep over the past three days, we had energy to keep us going and peace we couldn’t understand but gladly basked in. We met quite a few other parents who were in the same boat as us and looking around the ward, with so many teeny tiny little babies fighting for their lives, we couldn’t help but feel for them as well. The strength and determination of not just the parents in that ward but the little children as well was breathtaking.
The next morning Chadd started to wake up. It broke me when he opened his eyes, and looked at me trying to cry but with the tube in his throat it was no more than a weak little whisper. He had improved since being there and they took him off life support that day. We spent the day by his side again apart from food breaks and expressing breaks. Expressing became a time for unintended power naps, as I would often find myself passed out in the chair and milk dripping out in my lap! haha! Chadd was soon transferred to the high dependency ward where he was freed of a handful of tubes and equipment but still hooked up to drips and monitors. I still wasn’t allowed to feed him and his little cry was raspy from the tube being down his throat. He had improved so much by the next day that he was allowed to have little feeds starting that afternoon. I think he was looking forward to that because he would not settle all morning and definitely found his voice again! He was super hungry!
The next morning Nic and I woke up to the phone in our room ringing. It was Chadd’s nurse saying that he was well enough to go home and we could go up and sign his discharge papers that morning. We were pretty happy but I found myself wanting to stay! I was a bit hesitant about going home because I wanted to make sure he was really alright and nothing was going to happen again. I mean, just two days before he was on life support! The doctors actually never found out what was wrong…they thought maybe some sort of blood infection but none of their tests actually showed up anything so they were completely baffled, as were we. We drove home that afternoon and the very next day all that was left as a sign of Chadd’s ordeal were a few bruises from drips and a scar in his shin from that first drip they put in when he was in emergency. Just to top it off, he cracked his very first smile – enormous as ever – less than 24 hours after arriving home.
Chadd is our precious miracle from God. We named him Chadd Ezekiel Victor – meaning Warrior, Strength of God, Conqueror. He certainly lived up to it and it was, without a doubt, the strength of God that pulled him through. There definitely is a peace that totally exceeds our understanding and our knowledge, and Nic and I can both say we experienced it without a doubt in that week of turmoil. I know that no matter what anyone’s circumstances are they can have that peace too. While the whole experience is difficult to think about, and writing this has been a huge challenge for me, it’s that peace and that amazing power of God that worked not just in Chadd, but Nic and me as well, that got us through, and I know that none of us will ever be the same again.
” Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7