Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Updates: Judah, Sophia and Abbi

To make my life easier I'm posting the latest on all of our health issues.


Is doing great. He's eating 45ml every 3 hours and has been taking some (or all) of each feeding from a bottle. He's been moved to a crib for a little over a week now and they have adjusted him to just being swaddled and laid on his back to sleep without the additional "comfort" items. He still has his feeding tube and that will remain until he is eating at least 70% of each feeding from a bottle consistently. It could possibly come out over the weekend.

He has been having a lot of "brady's", short for bradycardia, which is a drop in his heart rate. It's totally normal for preemies and I've gotten used to him having them. But - he has to be without them for several days before he can come home.


A little history: Sophi has had a limp for about 3 weeks now. It first started following several days of a low-grade fever and it was initially diagnosed as a viral joint infection. After two weeks of waiting it out, she had made very little forward progress so her ped sent her for new x-rays and blood work. Her blood work revealed only small signs of infection - but nothing that would explain her limp. Her ped then referred her to an pediatric orthopedic who we saw today.

The pediatric orthopedic thinks that she has injured the joint, and that we are dealing with inflammation, not infection. They are still watching her for signs of valley fever but since she is improving incrementally each day, there is no reason to suspect infection unless she gets worse again. Hello large doses of advil.


I think the hardest thing for me to balance is my desire to be in the NICU with Judah and getting the rest my body needs to recover. I think I would actually get more rest if he were home, even though right now I can do 4-5 hour stretches of sleep which I won't be able to do once he's home. However, I don't have the option right now to "just take the baby to bed" with me and sleep when they sleep. Add in there all of Sophia's dr's appointments, Maddi's 6th birthday on Thursday, and getting Maddi and Izzi ready to start school next week. Yikes...not much rest for this very tired mama who can fall asleep at the drop of a hat.

They prepared me for it to take 1-3 months to recover from the Valley Fever and that didn't take into account recovering from having a baby as well. Honestly, I don't even feel like I just had a baby, I really feel like I have Valley Fever. I can't pinpoint specific symptoms other than the extreme tiredness - my respiratory pneumonia feels much better overall but still has it's moments (especially with the heat/humidity).

How to pray for us:

* Praise! Always we are praising God. For his provision during this time, for the large number of people who have and are helping our family get through it, for another day we get to bring Him glory. And for new opportunities - I never thought I would have hours to sit and chat with NICU nurses and now I do. Since they try to keep the nurses consistent I've gotten to know a few of them.

* Continued healing for myself and Sophia. That I could find moments to rest.

* Patience and endurance for Jeff when he feels like he's doing all the work (cause he pretty much is).

* That Judah would continue to improve each day. I'm anxious to have him home but want him fully healthy before he is so if that means longer in the NICU, then I'm ok with that.

Thank you everyone for your prayers, love and support. We are truly blessed by each one of you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Judah: First Bath

We were able to give Judah his first bath today. I thought after three kids I knew how to bathe a baby but we've entered a whole new world. We were instructed by a NICU massage therapist that works with each of the babies on how to give him a swaddle bath. It takes both of us to bathe him - one to hold and support him while the other washes him. It was wonderful having Jeff come today to give him his first bath.

Pre Bath:

Jeff held, I washed

Tiny Little Foot

Judah stayed calm and enjoyed it.

Post bath. The paci gives you an idea of how small he is :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Judah: 1 week old

One Week Old Today
(33 and 6/7 weeks in NICU terms)

Here is an update on Judah now that he is one week old:

* He had his IV nutritional support removed and is taking a full feeding (a little over an ounce) of breastmilk every 3 hours. He is tolerating them well - there are no residuals or left overs in his tummy and he only has occasional reflux. He eats through a feeding tube to his stomach.

* He has been weaning down on his oxygen support and is no longer using an oxygen supplement - he just has an airflow at room pressure through a nasal cannula. This will continue to wean down over the next several days.

* He is becoming more alert and learning his schedule. This is important because he needs to learn to recognize when he his hungry. He takes a pacifier really well. Hopefully I will be able to start working with him on breastfeeding in this next week. This one will take time but it's great that he's started showing the early signs of being able to drink from a nipple (either bottle or breast).

* He has lost 5 oz and currently weighs 3lbs 14 oz. This is normal for all babies and still within the 10% tolerance for birth weight loss so Dr's are not concerned.

* He has started to maintain some of his own body temperature which means we can bring in clothes for him to get him used to wearing something. It also means that he is moving towards being out of the incubator.

* He started physical therapy today! Who knew?

What to Pray For:

* He has been having apnea episodes. At 1 day old they gave him a caffeine starter that helps with the apnea for 5 days and now that it has worn off, he is having issues again. They gave him another starter today and will put him on a maintenance dose to wean him off. Please pray that his little body matures out of the apnea episodes.

* That I can balance life between the girls and some normalcy at home, our marriage (we're not having any problems other than busyness and exhaustion so we don't see each other!), and spending time at the NICU with Judah.

A lot of you have asked when Judah will come home. And THAT is the question! He looks like such a normal baby (plus the oxy and feeding tubes) in all his pictures! He's actually quite small though so it's misleading. The nurses will tell you to expect him home by his due date (Aug 27th) but most NICU babies that do really well go home between 37 and 38 weeks. We are hoping to have Judah home mid-August.

Judah: Birth Story

Jeff and I have a running joke that I like to get sick on his birthday. After having a nasty mastitis on his birthday last year (we had to drive home from vacation in the middle of the night I was so sick), we really didn't think anything would top that. Little did we know...

I had been having increasing shortness of breath for the last few weeks. I didn't notice it getting worse and assumed - its 120 degrees out, I'm 8 months pregnant, and I'm chasing around three kids. Who wouldn't have shortness of breath? On the night of Jeff's birthday, I started having a sharp pain when breathing in my right lung. I tried using an albuterol inhaler and it did nothing. I took a hot shower and went to bed thinking I would have my dr check it out at my 32 week OB check the next morning.

By the next morning (Wednesday) I was really short on breath - like couldn't talk short. The Dr's assumed I had a blood clot in my lung and sent me straight to the hospital to get checked out. I had no other symptoms - just shortness of breath and sharp pain in my right lung. A quick catscan (it's amazing how speedy hospitals can do things at times and how painfully slow at others!) revealed a pneumonia in my right lung. What? I have no fever, my blood cell counts were all NORMAL (including white), my ox levels were normal. How did I have pneumonia?

Several large jugs of blood and 24 hours of waiting revealed that I have Valley Fever. Most Phx natives have it - it's a fungus that is just part of the air we breathe. What you don't know about Valley Fever is that it can rear it's ugly head when it feels like it. It's possible for Valley Fever to lie dormant in your system for years and never experience any symptoms - or assume you have a small virus and you recover. It can show up anywhere in your body. Shortness of breath and unbelievable tiredness are the most common symptoms, but it can also be a pneumonia (like me!), a rash, a joint infection, an eye infection, any other kind of infection and a meningitis (grows in your spinal column). Apparently for me, now was the time for Valley Fever to rear it's ugly head. (And no, this was not a bi-product from the Haboob. With the stage I was at it had been growing for 6-8 weeks).

Ok, back to the story. Yay! Diagnosis - Valley Fever...now what? The good thing about VF is that it's very treatable. The bad thing is that it TAKES FOREVER. My Infections Disease Dr said that it's slow growing so it's slow going. The Dr's plan was to get my breathing stabilized and wean me off oxygen (by this point I had dropped to 86% and pregnant women should be above 97%) and send me home to recover. Brilliant plan - I am for it! And that worked...for about 24 hours.

Thursday night, just when I was starting to feel much more relaxed (thank you Vicodin) and like I could finally rest, I went into labor. Contractions were 3 min apart and I dilated to 3 cm in about an hour. Yep, baby is coming - no FFN needed. There was only one drug the dr's could give me to stop labor so they gave it a shot - and it worked. Woohoo! I was settling back down, contractions were slowing, it was great. Then I got up to go pee. And WOOSH, my vitals crashed (did I mention it's 1am Friday morning at this point?). My blood pressure was at 58/20, pulse 160 and oxy levels in the 70's (while being given oxygen).

We learned about a new button in the hospital at this point in time - it's called a rapid response. Within 30 seconds there were 15 different doctors all in my room WITH their equipment working to stabilize me. They put me on a cpap machine - which forces air into your lungs (and more commonly used with newborns) so I wouldn't have to transfer to the ICU - though that was the next step if I didn't stabilize. Praise God that I did! Within a couple hours on cpap my oxy levels were better but my breathing, pulse and blood pressure were still not good. You know your in bad shape when your nurse remarks that 80/40 is a great blood pressure!

Around 2am my Perinatalogist (high risk pregnancy dr) came in and made the call to re-induce my labor...that they had just stopped. They had to wait until I was a little more stable and I had labor stopping drugs in my system so we had to let those wear off a little. Around 5 am they began the process of induction, I was hooked up to petocin and they broke my water. It took quite a while for my body to respond to the petocin (probably due to the labor stopping meds) but it finally did and I went from 4cm to pushing in only about 30 min. I delivered wearing the cpap mask. That was fun.

At 10:58 am on Friday July 8th - Judah Russell was born. He weighed 4lbs 4 oz and was 17.5 inches long. Judah means "praise God" or "give thanks to God". I had picked the name prior to delivering or any of this craziness. Even while I was in labor, we were still going back and forth between three different names when Jeff told me that I should name him. Looking back, I don't think any other name could be more perfect.

Even through this chaos - a huge tornado has completely turn our lives and schedules upside-down and sideways - we praise God. No one asks for a preemie - it is one of the most emotionally and physically exhausting things a mother can go through, especially when there are three other kids at home all wanting and needing your attention. But I feel God's presence walking me through it. Through my recovery, through Judah's, and as our family finds a new balance, we find our peace and our strength in God.

Thank you to our family - who put their lives on hold this last week to be there for us and for the girls. And thank you to our Desert Breeze family. We couldn't ask for a better church community and the support you're giving us is truly an example of why God designed the church.