And then some. It started on Thursday. Three completely separate extended family medical events all ended up on the same day. One was a test, one a procedure I only a few days earlier found out was necessary, one a healthy baby 11 days past due date. Three on one day. How can we expect the universe to give us three good results in one day?? The test had gone badly before so I worried intensely about that one. And the procedure was also a bit of a biggie, with scary history behind it. The baby was hope and promise and joy, a welcome break from worry we would lose someone. The first event of the day, the test, was quick with happy results (and not mine to discuss so that's all on that). Next up was a dear heart in need of help, 84 years old, already the survivor of emergency quadruple bypass seven years ago. This time, the heart's aortic valve is at issue, badly stenosed, but with a serious side of left main artery once again 95% blocked, with other arteries also calcified but not as extensively. That left main artery is a biggie and had to be stabilized before tackling the valve. Thursday's procedure dealt with the left main artery. Given age, previous surgical history, and the fragility of the body in general, open heart bypass was out of the question. Procedure of choice this time was stenting, but with some serious "roto routing" of the artery. As is the case with so many medical procedures, it starts with getting blood pressure reading and inserting an IV. Those old blood vessels apparently are so calcified they are not easily compressible, so we don't know if we ever really got a reliable blood pressure reading. And the veins did not readily accept an IV.
The view from the room was comforting, as multiple emergencies bumped our appointed time further back. It is very difficult to watch a loved one endure repeated attempts to get blood and insert an IV. When that loved one is frail and tiny either from newness or with advanced age, distress is that much more. The staff at Maine Med center cardiac intensive care gets a huge gold star. Compassion ruled. The nurse attempted the IV twice and decided someone more experienced with such difficult veins should take over. That is huge. Ego often takes over and insists "I can do this." This nurse, so cheerful and attentive, put her patient well before her ego. This is policy, staff said, and it is a welcome shift from previous attitudes. The next nurse used lidocaine to protect patient but met with similar blown veins. After reasonable but non-torturous attempts, she too yielded to greater experience and summoned the PICC team, vascular access specialists who can get in the most difficult of veins. These people. All of them, CNA, nurse, specialist. I am filled with gratitude for them.
The procedure itself took about an hour. We had both pre- and post-procedure chats with the cardiologist, and fed him snacks both times. It is the right thing to do when the doc sits down with a weary countenance,catches his breath and says "it's been a long day and I'm tired." Peanut butter coated pretzels. He perked right up. And he did his job and gave us back our mother, bruised and battered, but with her heart functioning a bit better and safe for now.
As the heart procedure progressed, we got occasional updates on the baby in progress a couple states away. It was an on again off again labor. Tough on the woman, with serious lack of sleep. That was her experience for a bit more than three days, I think. Finally, early Saturday morning came the welcome text from my sister, baby's grandmother, "he's born, he's beautiful, and he's perfect!" Followed a couple hours later with the stark update: sweet little baby was born with pneumonia. That will bring your happy to a crashing halt. Born with pneumonia. But... NO. He had great prenatal care. The other two events were the scary ones. How does a healthy, well tended baby end up with pneumonia in utero? As related to me, the theory is the baby attempted to breath too soon and inhaled amniotic fluid. Once again, a tiny, fragile body endured long attempts to get blood and insert an IV. Having so freshly watched that play out on the aged loved one, I too easily visualized that new little life so in need of skin to skin bonding with his new Mum enduring instead latex coated hands restraining him while poking sharp needles into his soft flesh. And instead of nourishment at his mother's breast, he lay instead with tubes of oxygen feeding his little lungs. For hours we waited and eventually I had to return home, a 5 or so hour drive, without knowing how the little baby was doing. I did finally at one point stop and call another sister. There was finally an upate. The baby's oxygen levels were slowly improving. And later last night the even more reassuring update that baby and mom were finally getting skin to skin contact, though still not yet nursing time. That's when tears flow for me. Things are ok, I can let emotion flow. Finally last night came a few wonderful Mom and baby pictures, all the more heartwarming for the struggle to get them. They are not mine to share. This morning I am still hoping for an update.
Back here at home, I immediately slipped into my own concerns. New baby bunnies 12 days old, babies whose photos I can share. At 12 days, their eyes should open. They don't always. If they don't, I have to help them with that task. Before even going into the house, I checked my babies. Only one had open eyes, so I fetched a clean, soft cloth, dampened it, and helped the babies see. And then I lingered, stroking that soft little head with one finger, life and the threats to it once again on a more manageable plane.