Monday, January 23, 2006

squeezing life

The baby looked up at me from the crib. His breathing was still labored. I was watching him closely. There was a good chance he might need to be intubated.

I looked at every inch of him. His pulses were good, his limbs were warm, his temperature was normal, his air entry good, and his oxygen saturation was fine.

Then he coughed once, his little body arching.
Before he could take a full breath in to recover, he coughed again, harder. This time no air moved back in at all.

I grabbed the oxygen mask and bag and held it to his face

“Come on, little man,” I encouraged him softly, “take a breath for me.”

I eyed the monitor. His oxygen levels were dropping. His face was getting red. My heart was pounding as I waited for what seemed like forever for him to recover the way he had been all morning.

“Come on baby. You can do this.”

His face began to turn grey. I sealed the mask around his mouth and nose, holding it in place with my left hand. I attempted to force oxygen into his lungs. At first no air moved. His lungs were clamped down like steel. I hit the code bell on the wall beside me with a clenched fist and resumed bagging. Just then his tiny body went limp.

He looked dead for a moment. His eyes closed, and he was cold and blue.

My stomach was in my throat. I could hear people running down the hall toward me. Someone came in with the crash cart. His heart rate began to fall. I could hear a voice screaming in my head.

Just then I felt some give. I got a little air in and in a split second, pink washed back to the surface of his skin. His eyes opened instantly. His oxygen levels and heart rate came back to normal.

Colleagues moved around the room getting things settled. The respiratory therapist listened to his chest. Once everything was calm and the baby was comfortable, I left a colleague in the room to watch the baby and I went to the washroom. My body was shaking so badly. I sat down on the toilet and I took my own deep breaths.

The look and feel of the baby when he stopped breathing was terrifying. For a moment I thought he had died in my hands. I am convinced that I know how that would feel. To hold a dying baby. Pushing the air back in was also something I will never forget. The look of the pink surging back in and the warmth it brought with it - I will never lose that.

It is a simple case of mechanics. As easily as it comes back is as easy as it goes.


momentofchoice (tomesa) said...


i don't know what else to say.

Anonymous said...

wait 'till he's yours.
and your world collapses around you bit by bit second by second day by day.
mine was in the NICU for two weeks.
it was during those times that i thought nothing in the world could be that much more important.
she's one and a half now and i can still feel the pain that resonated throughout for those weeks she sat there with tubes and wires down her throat.


ChapFu said...

you beautifully captured how fragile and dependant life is. that feeling of absolute helplessness is probably the worst feeling in the world.

Rachel said...

I hope one day I will know what having my own baby is like, but I hope that I never have to go through anything like your family did amp. I expect that kind of pain is unimaginable.

That's the thing with pain. There is so much of it. Even when I saw it every day and in every way, it never dulled. Every single inch of tragedy reverberates in that place and I can't help but carry it with me.

Thanks cousins. You are right J, helpless sucks.

Anonymous said...

rachel, the little one made it.
the middle one only made it to age 15.
and no, the pain never dulls fact the opposite; it sharpens.