Kat’s Birth Story

April 6, 2013

My husband and I are first time parents. We got married at the age of 21 and decided to start trying for a little one a year later. Within a month I was pregnant! Little Elijah Paul was on his way!

We lived in Indiana at the time finishing up college and starting full time jobs. We were 5 hours away from our families (both sides live in Ohio). Towards the end of my pregnancy, things started to get hard. I constantly was in pain and the doctors couldn’t figure it out. They blamed it on the many UTIs I have had. So with a month to go before our little one was due to arrive we moved in with my grandmother in Ohio. We quit our jobs, packed up everything and just gave it to God.

Three weeks after arriving back in Ohio, Elijah decided it was time to come! My husband was working in downtown Cleveland (first day at the job!) and had to leave to meet me at the hospital. Of course, our son would decide to come during rush hour! My contractions started at 3:48pm on November 28th, they were on top of each other, within the hour. We rushed to the hospital – in between screaming in pain, I was yelling how excited I was to meet him, and calling everyone I could! IT WAS TIME!

When we arrived at the hospital my water still had not broke so they sent me to triage to get hooked up to the monitors. As they wheeled me in I asked to use the bathroom and you guessed it, my water broke on the toilet. It was then things took a turn for the worse.

When my water broke there was meconium in the water. My son was in distress and passed his first stool inside me. As quickly as they could they rushed me to delivery. As they were hooking me up to the monitors more and more hospital personnel kept coming into my room. His heart rate kept dropping. I was horrified. Still to this day it is all such a blur after this point. They were hooking up another monitor on his head, prepping me for a c-section, taking my vitals, putting in the epidural…  As my husband was getting his scrubs on they had to rush me for an emergency c-section. As they were trying to numb me, my son’s heart rate dropped again and they had to get him out. From what I understand, as I was screaming in pain, my husband came in and was immediately escorted out to the waiting room with the rest of the family. They knocked me out and when I came to my husband wasn’t there and I didn’t see my son. I was looking around asking “where is he? where is he? I want to see my baby!” At that point they took me to a recovery room where more doctors came in to explain he wasn’t breathing and had to be intubated. After that I know they came in explaining things were a lot worse than they first thought, but I was in shock and didn’t comprehend any of it. They took me back to see my little one in the NICU and I was able to barely touch his little foot. I only had a few minutes before they took me back to my room.

The hospital we were at did not have the equipment needed to keep my boy alive, so he was transferred to the Cleveland Clinic main hospital. He was born at 6:46pm and transferred at 10 something. I had no clue what was happening… They finally got me transferred around 3 or so in the morning and I didn’t get down to the NICU until almost 5 because the transportation team was not all that great on their timing (which is a whole other story in itself).

When I got to the NICU he was in his own room because he needed so much equipment they couldn’t fit it with other babies in the room (these are rooms meant for four babies at a time!). There were so many doctors and nurses… so so many.. I remember it was dark and a doctor was trying to explain to me what was going on and what all the machines were doing. I was in shock and medicated. I still did not understand how critical my son’s condition was.

After hours they could not keep him stable and our last effort to save him was for him to be put on ECMO, an artificial heart and lung machine, the ultimate life support as they put it. As my husband and I gave our consent, it was the first time we both lost it. I screamed it wasn’t fair! Why my son?! He was supposed to be perfectly healthy! How could this be happening!?!?!

At this point, Elijah was moved to the PICU to be put on ECMO. For five days, we waited by his bedside. Again he had two rooms to accommodate all the machines. Family had been staying at the hospital on couches and chairs. Thank God for the Ronald McDonald family room with showers, food, recliners, and a laundry room!

On the fourth day I was discharged and we had to stay at a hotel across the street from the hotel. We spent as much time as possible at the hospital talking and reading to Elijah. He was heavily sedated and most of the time we were asked to be quiet and let him rest. The stimulation would cause his blood pressure and heart rate to increase to an even scarier level then it was already at. So most of the time we stood silently praying watching our little one fight for his life.

Elijah had a lot of fluid on his lungs (x-rays were so white from all the fluid there was barely any air getting in). They were doing all they could to get the fluid off his little body. He was so swollen… he looked like a 4 month old. Every day they would take an x-ray and we would see barely any changes in his lungs. On the third day on ECMO, I got the news his lungs were cleared!! Overnight he lost so much fluid that he now had almost both lungs!! By midday one of his lungs collapsed, but by the next day was up again. We watched as there was finally starting to be some improvements! He started to come off some of the sedation and was able to open one eye a little (his face was still swollen so he couldn’t get his eyes open).

On the fourth day on ECMO, the doctors did a test run to see if he could handle coming off the machines. HE PASSED! Dr. Rodriguez came in and told us he would be off the next day!! I burst into tears and hugged that doctor so tight! He saved my baby! Even though my little one was not out of the woods, this was huge news! He went from having less than a 20% chance of surviving to an 80% chance! Coming off ECMO is a scary process and a lot can happen and a whole lot can go wrong but my little fighter surpassed all expectations! He did amazing!

We got moved back down into the NICU. Our next step for his recovery was for him to be able to breathe on his own, come off all meds, PO feed, and gain weight. There was a lot left for our little man to work through, but to me it was finally a day that I felt relief. I knew at that point – one day I WILL get to take my baby home!

So many tests and results… I am sure most NICU parents understand… X-ray every day, 24/7 EEG, 4 EKGs, 5 PICC lines, 2 surgeries, so many ultrasounds, NG tube, on and off cannulas, blood work every 12 hours… oh what a blur it all is.

He was 12 days old when he was extubated. That day was the best day! We finally got to hold our baby boy! Oh I was so nervous as the nurses were getting him out of his incubator. When they placed him in my arms and fixed his lines and I stared at my son… my heart just melted. I couldn’t help but be overjoyed! An instant peace came over me that day. I held him as much as they would let me after that day. Sharing those times with my husband was hard because I wanted to hold him ALL the time (haha) but it was also an amazing sight to see my men bonding!

We were in the NICU for 40 days. Each day one more line was taken away, one more machine left his bedside, and my little man kept getting stronger! I can’t tell you the feeling seeing just one med line being taken off. Oh my heart! I was/am so proud of my little man! We watched so many parents get to take “the walk of fame” as we called it. Watching the videos, car seat test, and off they went. I watched and waited impatiently to take my little one home. To get that clean bill of health. Oh, how that day couldn’t have come soon enough.

After weeks of living in the Ronald McDonald House and the hospital, Dr. Rodriguez walked into Elijah’s room on a Friday and asked if we would like to spend a night in the transition room and then take him home on Monday! I screamed YES! I couldn’t control myself (haha) I was so excited! No more tubes, PICC lines, or monitors! We were going home!

To this day, I have nightmares of that dreadful night that led to the scariest moments of my life. What I had planned on being the most exciting time of our lives turned into horror. I still look back and ask myself what could I have done differently. Should I have gone to the hospital earlier, would he have been alright? The “what if’s” will never leave but I would go through it all again for this amazing little boy! God used my boy to bring thousands together in prayer and bring hundreds to Him! My miracle will always know how special he is and how God loves him.

My boy is now 3 months old, and other than physical therapy for his motor skills, he no longer has to see any specialists! Praise the Lord for He is good! I am so blessed to be Elijah’s mommy!