In PART FIVE Maddie’s life was saved by a doctor who, just as all seemed lost, made a last ditch, unorthodox move that somehow worked. Maddie, however, was still far from out of the woods…
A few hours after all of the drama with Maddie almost dying had passed she was still stable. I’d spent most of the time since her recovery at her side looking in at her tiny little body under the glass. I felt such love for her. She just wouldn’t give up.
Eventually I decided to go downstairs to the cafeteria with my parents to get some food while Kirk and Kyle left to see Heather who was still at the hospital where Maddie was born. Heather, it turned out, had received a call from Kirk saying that Maddie had recovered just as she was about to sign the discharge papers. She wisely decided to stay and continue recovering from her C-section upon hearing this, but made me promise that if anything bad was to happen again I would tell her immediately.
After dinner I went back upstairs to check on Maddie. The calm that I had been feeling immediately disappeared. More people than ever before were now surrounding her isolette, and her vital numbers were staggeringly low. A previously mild mannered nurse suddenly sprinted away from Maddie with desperation in her eyes and nearly knocked me over as she barreled into a back room.
I returned to the waiting room and told my parents that things had once again taken a turn for the worse. Before too long “Wayne” came in to tell me that Maddie had blown more pneumos, and was once again leaking air into her chest cavity which was stopping her from breathing.
“Premature babies often have problems with this,” he said. “Their lungs simply aren’t strong enough to hold the air they inhale. We will do our best to release the air that escapes from her lungs by sticking tubes into her sides, but if she is to survive she will to have to heal quickly and become strong enough not to keep blowing these pneumos.”
For the next few hours I would check on Maddie every few minutes. Some visits found Maddie resting in her isolette, seemingly peaceful, while others again found a frantic team of doctors and nurses working to remove air from her chest. The doctors and nurses were tireless in all of this. “Wayne,” in fact, stayed on his feet caring for Maddie for thirty-two hours straight a nurse later told me.
It became clear at this point that, despite dreading having to do so, it was time to call Heather. Linda, Heather’s mother, picked up the phone and I told her what was happening. Linda immediately left Heather’s room and we had a debate about whether Heather should be told what was going on since she would definitely check out of the hospital against doctors orders this time, and we weren’t sure if that would be the best thing considering that she had just had major surgery a day prior. In the end we decided that we had to tell her…I’d given her my word to do so…and so, while Linda went off to start the process of getting Heather discharged, Kyle sat with Heather and gently told her that her little girl was once again in danger of losing her life.
Meanwhile, at UCLA, I went back into the NICU to check on Maddie and asked a nurse how Maddie was doing. The nurse’s face went white before, in a frightened whisper, she said, “We are doing the best that we can.” I nodded and started to tell them that Heather had checked out of her hospital and was on her way over, but ended up breaking down as I did so. The nurses lead me back to the waiting room.
Twenty minutes or so later I got a call that Heather and her mother had arrived, so Kyle and I went down to direct them inside. We found a wheelchair for Heather and pushed her up to the NICU to see Maddie.
Heather’s mood was very serene…this likely had a lot to do with the drugs she was under for pain…but it probably was for the best considering what she was about to see. Heather sat at Maddie’s side for the next hour and spoke quietly to her. It was a relief to know that…no matter what eventually happened…Heather finally was able to be with her daughter.
Later that night Linda and I brought Heather home, but it quickly became clear she was going to need to return to the hospital as her pain medication was wearing off and she was in more pain every moment. We called our obstetrician who made a call to get Heather re-admitted. Linda then took Heather back to first hospital. I was ready to go with them, but both she and Linda told me to stay and get some rest so I could return to Maddie’s side as soon as possible.
I got into bed and tried to sleep but it was hard. Heather was gone, as was Rigby (who had gone home with Heather’s Dad so we had one less thing to worry about), and I was alone with nothing but my thoughts.
After a night of restless sleep dawn finally broke and I called the NICU. I was immediately put on hold for a long while which made me nervous. Eventually Maddie’s nurse came on the line and told me that Maddie was not doing well. The respirator that was breathing for Maddie kept breaking holes (or popping pneumos) in her lungs, and, as a result the nurses had to hand pump her lungs all night. This stopped Maddie from popping pneumos, but exhausted her nurses who had literally stood on their feet their entire twelve hour shift, squeezing air into her lungs thirty times a minute.
Laurie, Maddie’s head nurse, told me that they could only do this so long. Maddie’s lungs, if she was to survive, were going to have to grow strong enough to sustain being on the respirator and fast otherwise she wasn’t going to make it. Today, she said, was a make or break day for Maddie.
To be concluded in PART SEVEN when Maddie’s fate is decided.