By: Heather Somaini
And then it seemed like all hell broke loose…that’s how it started. It was confusing at best, frightening at worst.
You see, when Tere was admitted into the hospital the first time, she was 22 weeks pregnant and the babies were not viable if born prematurely. The hospital staff was not in “emergency mode” because there wasn’t much that could be done if she was in pre-term labor and they knew it. So we were lulled into a sense of peace and calm believing that all was perfectly fine, not necessarily understanding the level of risk under which we were operating. Everything seemed fine. We felt like we had some control over the situation and just had to make the right decisions and all would be ok.
At 25 weeks though, and weighing maybe a little over a pound, there was actually a chance of survival. A very difficult survival and probably with a host of problems that would plague them for the rest of their lives. But they would be alive. Doctors take chances of survival like this very seriously.
When we arrived, they settled us into room 3007 – one door down from the room Tere had just vacated two weeks earlier. I relaxed in that bouncy chair they have in all those rooms. It starts out feeling comfortable and you can sit in it for a long time but eventually, you grow to sort of hate it. It represents this immobility you have while at the hospital, how you can’t “do” anything. It starts to force you to re-evaluate so much of your life. But I get ahead of myself.
The resident came in to let us know what was about to happen. Of course we knew what was about to happen, right? They were going to put the monitors on Tere and then we were going to settle in for an evening of television and I would go get something interesting to eat for dinner. Not so much. He explained that they were about to bring in the steroids and a number of other drugs that Tere needed to take right away. I thought he was joking at first. Why would Tere need steroids? The babies were only at 25 weeks and you only give steroids to babies who are about to be born. ABOUT TO BE BORN!?!?!
I stayed calm and asked the lovely, young, and very cute resident why in the world Tere would need to be injected with steroids at 25 weeks. He explained that if she were to have the babies now, there was a chance of survival and the steroids would mature the babies’ lungs as quickly as possible. I explained one more time that they were only at 25 weeks and it was not possible for them to be born now, it was just too early. He wasn’t very calm and essentially just told me that this was what they were going to do. I told him he could bring all the drugs in the world in, but nothing was getting injected into anyone until someone got Dr. C on the phone. He left in a bit of a huff.
Since it was later in the evening by this point, Dr. C was out of the office but one of the other doctors who was on-call in the practice called. I explained that the insane, crazy doctor at the hospital wanted to mature our babies’ lungs just “in case” they were born early! On top of that, he wanted to put Tere on complete 100% bed rest in the Trendelenburg position which is basically tipping the hospital bed so her feet are higher in the air than her head. I joked that they were going to hang her up by her toes to keep the babies inside. Tere didn’t think it was funny.
There were nurses coming in and out of the room, getting things ready. There were a bunch of big needles in front of Tere with syringes full of drugs. It felt like a rush of activity that neither of us had expected. No one told us any of this stuff was going to happen. Where was our calm evening of tv and pizza at Cedars?
The on-call doctor from our practice told me that this was pretty standard operating procedure for the hospital when someone comes in at 25 weeks and although it felt a little insane, it was going to be ok. I tried to believe her. We let the doctors do what they intended to do.
Tere told me later that this was the beginning of her actually being scared. The enormity of what was happening had sunk in for her. I did my best to keep things light and convince her that everything would be ok. It hadn’t sunk in for me at all.
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