This week I will share the story of a remarkable baby and how he touched our lives in his short life. 11 years ago our son Jacob was born. He was born at 24 weeks and weighed 1 pound 11 ounces. Born way too soon. He was born on December 30, 2000 after I had been on a long roller-coaster-ride bedrest, having spent weeks in the hospital. I went into preterm labor at 19 weeks, a cerclage was placed to sew up the cervix and then we waited. At 23 weeks I was transferred to a hospital that specializes in the earliest preemies. I held on one more week.
He was born via emergency c-section and transferred to the NICU. The doctors worked all night to try to stabilize him, finally by morning they had him stabilized on an oscillating ventilator and nitric oxide. I saw him for the first time that morning. Despite the tubes, wires, tape and machines I could see my little guy fighting for life. He looked just like his brother. It was only 20 months earlier that we were in this exact place with our older son who was born at 27 weeks. An experience I never wanted to repeat. He had spent 2 1/2 months in the hospital on an up and down adventure which we all somehow survived. Here we go again.
Being born at 24 weeks the doctors said Jacob had a 50/50 chance of surviving and if he did survive a 50/50 chance he would have significant disabilities. On his third day of life a head ultrasound detected a significant brain bleed, grade 3, suggesting an increase likelihood for disabilities. However the rest of the week he gradually improved. His ECHO showed he had a good heart and there was no problem with his PDA (a common issue for early preemies). By his one week birthday he was off the oscillator to less invasive ventilator and he started feedings, all good news. I began to let myself believe he would be all right.
Two days later he crashed, had to be put back on the oscillator and stop his feedings, the next day he was rushed into surgery. He had NEC (Necrotizing Enterocolitis), an infection of the bowels that can be serious in preemies. The surgeons had to remove a portion of his bowel that had died and create a stoma, he lost a lot of blood during the surgery and the doctors said the next 12 hours were critical. We prayed fervently. Our family and friends prayed. He made it through the next 12 hours and then turned around and began to improve. Again my heart was filled with thanksgiving and joy.
A few days later he crashed again, we were told they didn’t think he would make it through the night…but he did. We celebrated his 2 week birthday. By January 15th he was doing pretty good, they had put him back on the regular vent and taken him off some of the hard meds. He no longer needed the photo light and had opened his eyes for the first time!! I got to see into his soul, he seemed so much more real, my love grew.
But on this day, 11 years ago, January 16th, he had another tough day, his blood pressure dropped, his urine output kept decreasing and he needed lots of blood products. Later that day they switched to the “strong stuff” to help increase his blood pressure. All the stress that had been put on his little lungs, not yet ready to be breathing air, were wearing on him. Fighting for his life with every forced breath from the vent was wearing on him. Trying to recover from surgery when you weigh a little over a pound was wearing on him. Despite all this, the echocardiogram that day showed he still had a strong heart. I put all my hope in that… (to be continued).