When I learned that my son, Mason, was going to need to be delivered two months early, there was a lot of uncertainty. How would the delivery go? Would he be healthy? What was life going to be like for him? But one thing I was absolutely certain of is where I wanted him to receive the special care he would need: Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
I wasn’t responding to an ad campaign or any sort of word-of-mouth. I know how great the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is because I work there as a nurse. I see it every day, and I wanted nothing less than that for Mason.
About 32 weeks into my pregnancy, I came down with HELLP syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelets). I was extremely sick, and this led to Mason being IUGR (intrauterine growth restricted), meaning he would need to be delivered early. He weighed 2 pounds, 6 ounces and was 14 inches long — all of which was awfully small for a baby born at this gestation. His lungs were severely underdeveloped and he immediately needed chest compressions and a breathing tube. In fact, he was on a variety of machines to assist his breathing.
Despite his tiny size and the all the obstacles he faced, Mason was one feisty baby. He soon earned the nickname Mighty Mason! Along with his fighting spirit, Mason had what I knew from experience was a great medical team in his corner. I knew all of the nurses, doctors, therapists and other professionals who took care of my son. Having them there eased our anxiety every night when my husband and I left the NICU, knowing they were going to take excellent care of him.
Yes, it was difficult as a nurse in the NICU being on the patient side. I had to make that switch, wanting to be the mom and not the nurse. There were times when I felt all my nursing knowledge and skills just going out the window, like when I was terrified to touch Mason for the first time. That’s something I do as a NICU nurse on a daily basis. But the staff did a great job making sure I was Mason’s mom and not his nurse, and even though I’m a nurse they thoroughly explained things to me.
Eventually, the doctors were able to remove Mason’s breathing tube and wean him on to a nasal cannula so he could get his oxygen. The next obstacle, and it was a big one, was learning to eat. The nurses and speech therapists put in a lot of hard work with him every single day to help him.
Finally, when he was 3-and-a-half months old, Mason was able to come home. Six weeks later, we were able to remove the feeding tube, and then six months after he came home, he no longer needed the oxygen. Mason still works with a variety of therapists to help him reach developmental milestones, but now at 2 years old, he lights up a room with his huge smile and amazes us every day.
I am so very thankful for Mason’s time in the NICU at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Having such a tremendous resource close to home helped us get through some very scary times because we knew we were doing the best we could for our son. I have seen so many families helped in my time as a nurse here, and now being on the receiving end of that care makes it all the more special.