Tuesday, December 8, 2015

December 8 - Dear Nicholas Sparks (Guest Blogger Jennifer Jenkins)

Dear Mr. Sparks,

When I was 27 weeks pregnant, I went in for a routine checkup, and my doctor was alarmed at the size of my belly. I was measuring around 32-33 weeks, so she sent me to the hospital to have a level 2 ultrasound done, (hoping to find out the sex), and we found out that our baby "girl" had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia. I was hysterical! They immediately sent us to a high-risk doctor, and he explained to us our options. His first suggestion was to terminate the pregnancy. To me and my husband, that was not even an option, so instead he wanted to do an amnio to find out if it was a genetic problem. So we did the amnio, and from there, we were sent to the ECMO coordinator in the NICU. She explained to us what was going to happen when our baby was born and then gave us a tour of the NICU.

I began doctor visits twice a week for ultrasounds to measure the amniotic fluid index and have non-stress tests. In that first week, I was contracting at a regular rate, so my high-risk doctor said we needed to do an amniotic reduction to help stop the contractions. During the reduction, I went into labor, so I was put on meds, and it was eventually stopped, and I was allowed to go home with orders of strict bed rest (not an easy task with a 2 1/2 yr-old at home). My son and I spent our days in my air conditioned bedroom watching Disney movies and taking naps.

I was still having the contractions off and on, so they decided to induce at 37 weeks so that the team of doctors would be prepared for her arrival. Well, Bethany had other plans! She came at 36 weeks. I went into labor at 2:00 A.M. Monday morning and completely denied I was in labor because it wasn't very strong, and I just didn't want to believe it. I felt that as long as my baby was inside of me, then she was alive and with me. At 5:30, my husband woke up to get ready for work, and I was wide awake and in the middle of a contraction. I told him to go ahead and go to work, and I would call him if anything happened. By 7:30 A.M., I knew it was the real thing. So I called my husband and then called my sister to watch my son.

We got to the hospital at 10:00 A.M., and the contractions were definitely there but still nothing compared to what it was like with my first. They hooked me up to a monitor and were convinced it was false labor, that is, until they did an exam. They found that my water was literally bulging and about ready to burst at any moment. I was completely effaced and had begun dilation. They told me to walk around for an hour and then come back. They were afraid my water would break, so they instructed us not to leave the hospital.

We came back at 1:00 P.M., and the nurse examined me again. I had dilated even more, and my water was even closer to being a waterfall. The nurse got my records and knew that our baby was sick, so they cleared out what they call the "Cadillac room" and put me in there. It was like a luxury suite! They treated me like I was so fragile.

They gave me an epidural at 2:30 because they wanted to be prepared for an emergency c-section. At 4:00 P.M., my doctor arrived, and I apologized for not waiting until the induction date. She laughed at me. My labor was now very hard when I had a contraction, but the contractions were still very slow, and Bethany was showing signs of distress. So my doctor gave me pitocin to speed it up. At that point, my mom and hubby were in scrubs ready to go to the OR for delivery, and they had made a bet on what time Bethany would be born. My hubby guessed 6:45, and my mom guessed 6:55. Well, at exactly 6:55 P.M., Bethany Michelle Jenkins was born. I only caught a glimpse of her as they cut the cord and rushed her off into the resuscitation room. She was very gray and didn't even look alive at all. My husband was allowed to go with her, and my mom stayed with me to keep me calm.

I had some problems with hemorrhaging and lost a great deal of blood, but they were finally able to get that under control and stitched me all up. Because of the hemorrhaging, I wasn't allowed out of my bed, even to go see my daughter. So I relied on updates from my husband and the neonatologist.

About 10:00 P.M., the neonatologist came into my room with a solemn face and told me that we needed to start thinking about funeral arrangements because he didn't feel that Bethany would survive the night. I was devastated! I hadn't even seen her yet! My husband stayed at her bedside most of the night and kept me posted on her condition. The next morning her condition had improved somewhat, and she was still with us. They allowed my husband to wheel me in to see her. I thought I was prepared for what I was about to see because I had toured the NICU twice before she was born. But it turned out that it was very different because it was my own child hooked up to all those machines. I think what bothered me the most was the high frequency ventilator making her chest vibrate so violently. I was only allowed to stay for a short time, and when I got back to my room, I bawled and prayed!

Bethany had her ups and downs through that second day and through the night. But by 10:00 P.M. the following night, they decided that she was stable enough for her life-saving surgery. Before her surgery, we had her baptized and then off she went. After her surgery, the doctor came in and told us that she probably wouldn't be awake until the following morning and that they had given her some paralyzing medicine so she wouldn't be moving at all until at least then. Ten minutes after we talked to him, we went in to see her. (They had closed the NICU and did the surgery right there in her bed). When I talked to her, she opened her eyes and stared at me! And when I held her little hand, she squeezed my finger! She was such a little fighter!

The remainder of her hospital stay was touch and go. The first time they tried to extubate her, we were there. They waited for what seemed like an eternity for her to start breathing on her own, but it wasn't flying, so they bagged her and reintubated her. It broke my heart. About a week after that, I was at home resting with my son, (they made me go home to sleep), when I got a call from the neonatologist. He called to tell me that Bethany was off the vent and doing well! She was on a nasal cannul but pretty much holding her own! What an achievement! I was so excited! I went to the hospital, and for the very first time, was able to hear my baby cry. What a sweet, sweet sound!

A few days after that, she swelled up like a big balloon, and her blood pressure went sky high. So her BP meds were upped, and she was put on diuretics to get rid of the fluid that she was retaining and causing her to swell. They got that under control, and then they cut her narcotics off cold turkey! That didn't go well at all! She cried and cried from withdrawals. So they ended up putting her back on them to slowly wean her off. To make a really long story short, Bethy was eventually put on feeds through a Gavauge and then was able to nurse. Then one day when I came in to visit her, the doctor came in and asked me how I would like to take my baby home! He said that he wanted me to "room in" with her that night in a special room, and the next day they would release her. Ohhh, what a happy day!

Bethany is now 3 1/2 years old and doing fairly well. She has some bowel problems, reflux, and if she gets too active, she has some breathing problems. But those are so small compared to what she went through just to be here today! Her development has not suffered at all. She is in pre-school and absolutely loves it! She’s writing her name and starting to spell words, and she is the sweetest child, always thinking of other people before herself. My little angel! Anyway, that is Bethy's story in a nutshell.

Written by Bethany's mom, Jennifer Jenkins (Washington)

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