In PART THREE Maddie was transferred to to UCLA because her birth hospital didn’t have the capabilities to care for her. With Heather not yet released from the birth hospital, I travelled to UCLA to be with Maddie as she fought to survive her first night on earth.
Once my parents left I went back into the NICU to check on Madeline. She was still connected to the high powered ventilator, but now was not moving her hands and legs as she had been previously. Maddie’s nurse, Nancy, told me that she had been given medication to temporarily paralyze her so that her body would do nothing but focus on breathing. She was also being given dopamine to keep her blood pressure up, fentanyl to minimize any pain she may be feeling, and the nitrix. I then asked if there were any ways that I could keep track of how Madeline was doing. Dr. Walker offered the “proximity test.” Doing this test is simple…you just look at Maddie’s isolette. If a lot of people are milling about, (as they had been pretty much all day), that was bad. On the other hand, if there were only one or two nurses standing casually nearby, things were probably stable. Nancy’s suggestion was for me to follow a blue number on Madeline’s monitor that kept track of the level of oxygen in her body. Ideally, this number should be between 85-95. Maddie’s number right then was in the low seventies, but this was okay for now I was told.
I called Heather again to give her yet another update, then returned to the waiting room. I was, as you can imagine, very worried at this point, and having to go through this without Heather was very hard. I couldn’t even imagine what it was like for Heather to be so far away from Maddie as all of this was happening.
Every few minutes I got up and went down to the NICU to check Maddie’s blue number. It was always different, once 88, another time 67. I began to check the number fairly obsessively as it was the only thing I felt I had any control of. One time, as I was checking the blue number, I noticed a large board on the wall that had a listing of all the NICU babies and some data about them. Something immediately leapt out at me. Under a column entitled “Acuity,” every baby was marked as being 1:2 except for Madeline who was marked 2:1. When I inquired about this I was told that acuity meant how many nurses were assigned to each baby based on their needs. Therefore, 1:2 meant that a baby was in good shape and able to share a single nurse with another baby. Maddie’s 2:1 meant that she had two nurses dedicated to her alone. Even with my horrid math skills I knew that that meant that Maddie was requiring four times the care of all the other babies.
I was very tired at this point, and when my father returned from dropping my Mom at the hotel we went down to the first floor to get sodas from the vending machine. We then sat at a table and talked for a while as we drank them. I don’t remember what we discussed, but it had to do with Maddie and the whole situation, and it was good to talk things through for a little while.
It was 2:30 in the morning when we went back up to the NICU where Madeline seemed relatively stable as her blue number was in the low eighties and her isolette was only surrounded by her two nurses. I mentioned to Nancy that I felt bad Heather was not able to see Madeline, so Nancy suggested we take a couple pictures of her with a Polaroid camera they kept in the NICU.
With my developing Polaroids in hand I decided to go home to get some sleep. I told Nancy to call me immediately if anything happened with Maddie, and that I would call at 6:30 in the morning to get an update before the nurses changed shifts.
Upon walking through my front door Rigby leapt off the couch and barked like mad until she realized it was me, then spun around in anticipation of the treat I always give her when I come home. As I gave Rigby her treat, Leah, who had been sleeping on the couch, woke, and I updated her about Maddie and showed her the Polaroids. I then retired to my room where I set out clean clothes in case the NICU called and I needed to get back to there immediately.
It took a little while to get to sleep with all of the thoughts in my head, but I eventually did, and before I knew it the alarm went off signaling it was 6:30 in the morning. My first thought was that the NICU had not called during the night, and that Maddie was hanging in there. I quickly called the NICU and was told by Nancy that Maddie was still relatively stable. I called Heather with this news, then got dressed, took Rigby out to the bathroom, and headed over to Heather’s hospital.
Heather seemed to be in relatively good spirits considering everything once I got there. I showed her and her mother, Linda, the Polaroids of Maddie, looked through a book about a preemie born under two pounds who was now a healthy four year old, and received a hat and booties for Maddie from a nice retired woman who donated her time at the hospital. Before too long, however, I decided to go and check on Maddie.
Maddie was still relatively stable when I returned to UCLA, and remained that way for the next few hours as my parents and I went back and forth from the waiting room to her side. Around two in the afternoon the stress and lack of sleep was really catching up to me though, so I decided to go home for a little nap. My parents thought this was a good idea, and headed off to check into a new hotel as the one they were at didn’t have any rooms that night. I told the day nurse to call me if there was any change in Maddie’s condition.
Once back at home I placed the phone on the bed stand and climbed under the covers. I had only been asleep for about twenty minutes when the phone rang. I woke up and checked the caller ID. It read: “UCLA NICU.” I felt sick as I answered it and heard Dr. Walker’s voice. She told me that Maddie was de-stating (her numbers were falling), and that I needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. There was gravity in her voice that I had not heard the night before when I first met her. I told her I would be there right away and leapt out of bed.
In PART FIVE the doctors tell us that Maddie most likely would die that day.