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Archive for September, 2010

It Takes a Village…

“Oh who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day.”

Today Casey turns 60. 60 days that is. Two of the most roller coasterish months of my life. Keao and I have seen the mountaintop highs, the valley lows and seemingly everything in between. I’m not going to try to rehash the last two months because it would probably be too emotional, but I will say that we’re still chugging along and trying to keep afloat. Thank you all for coming along this journey with us. We would not be where we are today if not for you.

I’ve decided that since Keao seems to have the larger more loyal fan base and I have maybe four regular readers (and you know who you are) I would let Keao handle the play-by-play and I would do the color commentary. So keep a lookout for her blogs on Sundays and Wednesdays. Mine will continue to be sporadic. By the way, if you don’t know where her blog is you can find it here.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. One couple cannot do everything themselves. The first time I really heard this phrase being used was right after Mikey and Liz gave birth to their first child Haley. I thought they said it just so that they could make their friends babysit and change stinky diapers (which they did liberally). Of course, we love them and had no problems being a part of their village (in fact it provided excellent practice for Casey and Haley and Lexie are two of the coolest little girls around). But after spending 60 days with Casey in the NICU I have truly come to understand the meaning of the phrase.

Right after Allison passed away, the Kaiser staff moved us into a different room. It turned out to be a great idea as we would not have been able to manage visits to her old room. As we entered the new room we were a little hesitant and nervous (not to mention emotional) but one of the nurses came and gave us a hug. We thanked her for her kindness and she turned, smiled and said, “don’t worry, you’re family.” Indeed after two months of being with the NICU staff, they are indeed family. Other than work or sleep, we spend more time there than anywhere else. So it would make sense that we have become quite close with the staff.

Over the next month or so I’ll try to highlight some of the wonderful people we have met in the NICU. Not everyone wants to be in a blog so I will definitely respect their privacy (that’s my little clause in case you don’t get mentioned) but for those that don’t mind, watch out, you’re about to be introduced to my four regular readers.

Keao chastised me for saying that Mariko may be our number one nurse. Let me clarify that I did not say she was our number one nurse but simply that some may say she’s our favorite. Who is that “some”? Dunno. But it’s out there. The truth is we’re quite fond of all of our nurses. Like I said earlier, they’re family.

So today’s feature spotlight falls on the very popular Aunty Arlene!

I know I’m not the first to feature Arlene in a blog and that is just a testament to how incredible she is. She is one of the most gentle and kindest people I have ever met (and not to brag, but I have met quite a few people in my day). While her communication skills with us are wonderful she really excels with Casey.

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You know she loves her job because that smile is ever present.

One night I ended up talking to this one nurse, who we won’t name, but whose name is remarkably similar to Arlene, and I mentioned that she never takes care of Casey anymore. She responded by telling me that it’s most likely because Arlene was working that night. She went on to say that Arlene is “great with preemies.” Comforting I thought, but shouldn’t all the nurses be great with preemies? Correcting herself, this unnamed nurse replied, “Micro-preemies. Arlene is exceptional with micro-preemies.”

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Here she is placing Casey ever so gently on my thick, muscular chest

One of the wonderful traits of Arlene is her thoughtfulness. We normally call ahead to let the staff know when we’re coming in so if there’s anything special we need to do or know about we can be prepared. Little did I know that sometimes when we call ahead they prepare for us as well. It is not uncommon to come in and see the room set up like this:

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One chair for me, one chair for Keao

This set up may not look like a lot, but it really is. One chair is there for the parent that is carrying Casey (complete with a pillow for under your bum) and the other is set up with a little table to do some work or write thank you cards. Who else but Arlene would set up the room like this for us? Seriously, who else? She’s the only one that does it. In the biz, I would imagine it’s that kind of preparedness that gives Arlene such an edge on the competition.

Another night I mentioned that I had a hard time dressing Casey (in my defense, it was my first time and she’s extremely small and squirrelly). Next time we come in what do we find?

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Not Casey

Arlene had brought in a doll so I could practice my dressing technique. Since I had never been a girl and had never played with dolls, I had never learned to dress them (good thing GI Joes and He-Man’s clothes weren’t removable). Not content to leave me to learn and struggle Arlene gave me a crash course. She demonstrated and then made me practice. And practice. And practice until I got it right. Now I can dress Casey in a flash. Thanks Coach Arlene!

Lastly, with Arlene, you never know what kind of little surprises will show up every now and then (when I say lastly, I mean lastly in this post. Arlene has many other outstanding features, like her trademark braid, but I’d be writing for a few more hours if I tried to list them all). We first noticed a name tag. When we asked to made it and stuck it on Casey’s isolette everyone guessed it was Arlene (turns out they were right). Then we saw one month old card. Followed by some beautiful pictures. Nothing breaks up the monotony of coming to the hospital every day like find little treasures every now and then (Arlene, if you’re reading this, we’re not trying to pressure you into making us more cards, you’ve done so much already).

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Here’s a little sampling of what Casey has received (took it with my phone so the picture doesn’t do it justice)

But I really believe that working in the NICU is a calling. It’s not for everyone. Dealing with preemies, parents, other staff. I’m sure that it can be a brute. Luckily for us we found a nurse who I believe is definitely walking in her calling and by doing so manages to bless us and everyone else as well.

Thank you Aunty Arlene! We are so thankful that you are taking care of Casey and in our lives!

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32 is a Magic Number

“Just waking up in the morning gotta thank God,
I don’t know but today seems kinda odd
Today I didn’t even have to use my AK,
I got to say it was a good day” –

Ice Cube, “It was a Good Day”

What does Ice Cube have to do with 32 being a magic number? Honestly not a lot other than it was a good day. Monday, Labor Day, people going out and enjoying the holiday taking advantage of wearing white for the last time. Monday, my first foray into dirt biking (which ended suddenly when I took a massive spill whilst trying to climb a hill). Monday, Casey turned 32 weeks (32 gestational weeks that is).

When dealing with preemies there are certain gestational milestones that occur. 24 weeks is the first one as that’s about the youngest a baby can be born and survive outside the womb. 28 week and the survival rate jumps up to 95%. 32 weeks and you’re good to go. Of course a baby develops much better inside of the womb, but whether they’re inside or outside they still need to develop. so even though Casey came at a month and a half ago, 32 weeks is still a huge milestone for her.

During the last trimester one of the biggest job a baby has is to put on weight. Lots of it. As you recall Casey weighed 2 lbs 4 oz when she was born. Since then she’s been working really hard trying to gain weight. So much so that she is now a whopping 3 lbs 6 oz! She’s basically put on 50% of her body weight since birth! Amazing. She’s now a little roly poly baby.

So back to Monday. It was a good day. We entered the NICU and noticed a few different things. First, they took away the big heavy blanket that was covering her isolette. They tell us it’s to help her develop an internal clock (although she sleeps like 20 hours a day so how much of a clock does she need?). Second, we look at her arm and noticed something odd.

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Do you see that pink thing peeking out?

Did you catch it? It looks like a sleeve! 32 weeks and now we no longer have a little naked baby. She’s now wearing clothes! This may not seem like a big deal, but as they’re trying to teach her to regulate her body temperature they’re putting her in clothes and slowly turning down the temperature in the isolette (not too much though, they don’t want her to expend too many calories on keeping warm otherwise she won’t keep on her new layer of fat).

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Well maybe she still has some growing to do

One of our biggest blessings during our time at the NICU are our nurses. They are truly unsung heroes when it comes to baby care. We figure we spend around an eighth of the day with Casey and they give her round the clock care. I’m sure she knows them better than she knows us.

One of our favorite nurses (some might even daresay our number one nurse) is Mariko (unless you’re reading this and you’re a nurse not named Mariko then you are indeed our favorite!) She is a sweet woman who happened to help us pick out clothes and dress Casey. As you can see below, this wonderful newlywed is showing us the outfit that Casey will be sporting for the remainder of this post.

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Here’s Mariko making Casey’s top look minuscule

Now I would not consider myself an expert on clothing preemies, but let me tell ya, it’s way harder than it looks. For one, their hands are so tiny and trying to find it in Casey’s long sleeve top was like finding a needle in a haystack. Also, trying to pull it out of the sleeve terrified me because I felt like I was going to pull her finger right out (not to mention thinking her thumb would bend backward and snap off). I know that in reality those things hardly happen, but I’m sure they must happen once in a while right? So after Mariko finished in like two seconds, she waited patiently for me to finish my arm. But finally our little girl was clothed. It’s amazing how some clothes really made her look so much older.

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Getting ready for her new outfit

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Mariko showing off her mad skills

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My vienna sausage fingers were having a hard time

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Still working and looking for fingers

But now that our little girl is 32 weeks we’re expecting great things from her. We’ll monitor her to make sure she’s making progress. Yesterday she had some physical therapy and tomorrow she has her first eye test (I’m not sure how they’re going to make her read that chart but I’m going to tell her tonight that the top letter is always an E).

She’s making progress, but that doesn’t mean you can stop praying. Keep praying that she develops normally and that she can get that CPAP off her face so she can open her eyes all the time (or at least when she’s not sleeping any of the 20 hours during the day). She’s way cuter without that huge snorkel and mask. Trust me.

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