Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Rob: That Dreaded Feeling

I doubt there's a parent alive who hasn't experienced a feeling of dread. That moment in time where your heart skips a beat, your breathing stops and panic sets in.

Sometimes it lasts mere seconds like when your child falls off the monkey bars or you lose sight of them in a busy store. In these cases, the dread is usually quickly replaced by relief and then perhaps a little concern or even anger.

Other times, the feeling lasts longer and is harder to shake off once the crisis has been averted or the situation resolved. I have one such experience, while almost two years in the past, still haunts me.

The birth of your child is supposed to be a joyous occasion and I'll preface this by saying the births of each of my three children have been amazing, life changing experiences.  They have all been unique and I cherish the memories from each. I also recognize the importance of the birth stories and want to stress that this is not a birth story, but does revolve around the birth of our youngest daughter.

After giving birth to our first two daughters in the hospital, we decided on a home birth for our last child. On the day Laura went into labour, everything went fantastically. Our midwives were attentive, my mother-in-law came over to help and even our eldest daughter was around to be part of the story. Laura laboured with limited complications and our youngest daughter, Stella, was born at home in mid-afternoon.

After an initial examination by the midwives, everything appeared normal and we spent about 15 minutes basking in the joy of the latest addition to our family.

As a standard practice, babies heart rates are monitored for a period of time immediately after birth and while I don't clearly remember the details, one of the midwives noted that Stella's heart rate seemed really high and asked her colleague to confer. I do however, remember watching the midwives gently press their stethoscopes on my tiny girl's chest and noted the increasing level of concern in their eyes.

The midwives did a remarkable job of keeping their voices calm when they mentioned that Stella's heart rate was high and they were going to call 911. We would need to take a little trip to the local children's hospital.

Their voices were calm but I could see the concern in their eyes and that feeling of dread crept in.

The ambulance arrived and after a quick examination, the baby was bundled off to the hospital with me trailing behind. I don't remember the drive at all, but can clearly recall that overwhelming sense of concern for my child. All I really remember from the journey was focusing on making sure my hands didn't shake too much on the steering wheel.

When we arrived, one of the ambulance attendants mentioned that she thought our baby's heart rate had slowed on the drive over. I felt a momentary sense of relief flow through my body and thought to myself, "What a great story this will be to tell her when she gets older."

With a newborn, there is no waiting around and the nurses hooked the baby up to a monitor right away.  Again, I couldn't hear the conversation, but noted the look of concern in the eyes of the hospital staff.

I left the room momentarily to fill out some paperwork and when I returned, the circle of medical staff had doubled.  Their normal calm demeanor seemed to have been replaced by a frenetic energy. I looked at the heart rate monitor and it was at 250 beats per minute. I'm no doctor, but even I knew this was high.

The number of doctors and nurses kept increasing. Our daughter's heart rate kept rising. My feeling of dread went through the roof. Even now, almost two years later, I can clearly recall sitting beside my wife, who had given birth less than an hour before, holding hands, fighting panic and holding back tears by a thread.

The midwives sat in front of us, attended to Laura and tried as best they could to comfort us, but every time we looked over at this teeny little baby, lying on a hospital bed, surrounded by an ever increasing number of doctors, that feeling of dread just kept rising.

It all reached a crescendo when two physicians were arguing over a proposed treatment while Stella's heart rate reached 292 beats per minute and someone said, "I don't care what we do, just do something."

The reality is the doctors were likely just talking and probably suggested that they just take action but in my panic stricken mind, it played out exactly as described above.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, a wonderful young doctor came over and explained that this was a fairly common occurrence with children and there were lots of possible treatments, but the one they had settled on was putting a bag of ice on her face.

I'm sure I looked at her sideways and gave her the WTF look, but she explained that sometimes the heart can get stuck on a cycle where only two of the four chambers are pushing blood through.  It's like they are caught on a loop and this causes heart rates to spike. The hearts rates of children, particularly newborns, run at higher rates than adults and even 250 plus per minute is sustainable for a short period of time. According to the doctor, the ice would cause the baby to recoil in shock and this, in turn, would cause the entire heart to reset.

I was skeptical, but at this stage wasn't going to argue. Perhaps a minute later, someone gently put a very small ice pack on our daughter's face and held it there for just a few seconds.

I swear, there was probably 25 people in the room and you could have heard a pin drop as everyone stared at the heart rate monitor. It was probably the matter of no more than a second or two, but all of a sudden the 292 was replaced with 250 and just as quickly a 185 and then down to 130 something.

I'm not sure if you've been in a room where everyone breathed a sigh of relief at the exact same moment, but this was one of those times. Immediately the tone of the room changed. Conversations started and people drifted out to attend to the other patients.

All I can say is that I lost it for a few minutes.

The doctor explained that our little girl had a heart condition, but that if you ever had to have a child with a heart condition, this was the one to have.  It was treatable and in many cases resolves itself over time. After several days in the NICU, hooked up to a range of machines, we finally brought our daughter home again and spent the next year monitoring and treating her for this condition.

While I'm pleased to say that she has never had another incident and has even been officially discharged from the pediatric cardiology program, I'm still not over that feeling of dread from those first few hours of her life. Even while writing this post, I found myself overcome with strong emotions.

As parents we are all going to have these moments where we get that feeling of dread.  In the moment we do everything in our power to react and act calmly, but underneath we are a seething cauldron of fear and panic. This is human nature and while I haven't quite been able to let go of this experience yet, I am comforted in my belief that like all the other times the feeling of dread has struck, this too will fade.

















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34 comments:

  1. Wow, I can't believe a simple bag of ice on the face would have such a dramatic response! Our tot was diagnosed with a heart murmur a few days after he was born. He was and is fine but I'll never forget the dread of being told there's something wrong with my newborn's heart.

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    1. It's true. It was the craziest thing with the ice and we were given strict instructions not to try it at home if she had another episode. I'm really glad to hear you son is okay and thanks for reading.

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  2. Goodness that sounds scary!So glad it turned out in the end though! #bestandworst

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    1. It was really scary. I can honestly say that it was probably the most helpless I've every felt. Thanks for reading.

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  3. Omg I had my heart in my mouth reading this. Must have been so scary especially after your wife had such a straight forward labour. So glad you had so many professionals around to keep an eye on her and you had a lovely outcome. Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst and hope you pop back xxx

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    1. It was very emotional and Laura was an absolute trooper. I didn't include it in the post but they kept the baby in the hospital for several days because they were concerned she would have another episode and Laura stayed there the whole time right after given birth. I promise I'll swing back and read more of the posts plus will post again for sure. Thanks for hosting. I really like your blog BTW.

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  4. I felt terrified for you and your wife as I was reading it - I'm so glad it was resolved. Your first paragraph really resonated with me - I've never known fear like the fear that comes with having children.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments. I was so scared at the time and sometimes, I think I give her an extra hug or two as a result. It certainly still evokes an emotional response.

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  5. I can't begin to imagine how awful this was for all of you and I'm happy to hear that your daughter was fine after her unconventional treatment. How amazing were the medical team that day!

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    1. I have the utmost respect for doctors, nurses and all medical practitioners. Each and every one of them I have worked with seem dedicated and professional. Honestly, I don't know how the one's who work with babies and children deal with the stress. My hat goes off to them. Thank you for reading.

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  6. What a wonderful post! This made my mummy cry! She's experience that roller coaster feeling of dread many times. Such a well written account of your experience it was like we were in the room with you. Scary but happy for you x #PoCoLo #BrilliantBlogPosts

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments and while I'm sorry I made someone cry, I'm glad I was able to convey the emotion of the experience.

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  7. This is such a well- written, wonderful post, Rob! As I was reading, I kept thinking, Please let her be okay!" I'm so very glad that your story has a happy ending and that your daughter is officially cleared of her heart complications! And you're right- all parents have had that sudden feeling of dread. Your examples describe it perfectly and make your post completely relatable. #MomstersLink

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    1. Thank you so much for the kind words about both my daughter's health and the post. It was a tough one to write but I was really happy with the result.

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  8. Oh my goodness I cannot imagine how scary that was and how you must have been feeling.So pleased that all was ok the end, phew. Lovely post.

    #momsterslink

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    1. I never really figured out the level of seriousness. Once the initial shock wore off, I was just glad we got to the hospital in time. Thanks for reading.

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  9. Gosh, I had that dreaded feeling reading this post. What a scary experience. So glad the ice worked & everything turned out ok in the end. #Brilliantblogposts

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    1. It was pretty intense that's for sure. She's an impetuous little imp now with a clean bill of health but it just goes to show; you never know. Thanks for reading.

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  10. This must have been SO SO scary. Any parents worst nightmare :( I am so pleased that everything has turned out OK. A wonderful post - as in the writing, not the subject. Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo.

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    1. Thanks Vic. I really appreciate the words of encouragement both on the writing and the situation. My pleasure.

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  11. How wonderful that such a simple remedy worked on a very scary situation!! Thank you for sharing your story! Also, I have a link party on Mondays through Friday..you are more than welcome to share this or any post that you'd like!

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    1. Thanks casey. Could you send me the link? I'd be happy to share.

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  12. How frightening for you both. Glad to hear that everything is ok now x
    I have a Stella too. Great name!
    x Alice
    #momsterslink

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    1. Thanks. Her name is super old school but I really love it and she's seemed like a Stella right from the start.

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  13. What a scary moment for you as a parent but you have written about it beautifully. I am so glad that your story had a happy ending and that she is healthy today. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story with #momsterslink

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    1. My pleasure and thank you for the really thoughtful comments. When it's something close to you, it's easy to write about.

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  14. Wow, I can't imagine how scared I would be in that situation, that little heart sink is bad enough but one that continues more than a few moments would be so draining., beautifully written as always.

    Thanks for linking up with #dadpostoftheweek

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    1. Thanks Ashley. It was a tough couple of hours for sure and I really appreciate the compliments. If you keep hosting, I'll keep making an effort to write at least one #dadpostoftheweek worthy post.

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  15. Wow! Who would have thought an ice pack to the face would do the trick. It must have been a terrifying time for you all and thank goodness your family are all safe and well. Much respect to your wife for having a home

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    1. It was pretty crazy and I would have never expected it to work. Thanks for the encouraging words and for reading.

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  16. Oh my word! What a terrifying situation. Im so pleased that all is well with little Stella, I don't know what I would do in that situation. #DadPostOfTheWeek

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    1. It was definitely very emotional at the time and still is to some extent. She's such a tough little trooper. Thanks for reading.

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  17. We have had a different but all the same life threatening thing. It stays with you and took me a long time to properly relax from again. I am so glad to hear she is okay. thanks for sharing #momsterlink

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    1. It's actually quite healing to write about it and I hope everything worked out okay in your situation. Thanks for reading.

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