I believe every single circumstance we face in life turns us into who we need to be. Seven years ago, my middle son's life ended up changing mine forever. I wrote this blog the week after it happened, and I'm so happy I did, because all the details would be lost on me 7 years later if I hadn't. So thankful Bennett is still physically here in our lives, and his sweet life will always be a reminder of grace shown to me forever.
July 25, 2013
Wednesday night everything was fine. I was enjoying my two boys, Tyler was at his kickball game, and I was just putting Cayden down for bedtime. Bennett and I were just watching some tv as Tyler got home from kickball. Something was bothering me a little bit, Bennett just hadn't been eating as awesome as he had been since coming home from the hospital. I told Tyler and both of us remembered Cayden having a couple days that he didn't eat as well when he was a newborn so I said I'd see how he did overnight and then call the pediatrician in the morning if it wasn't the same still. Well, that night Bennett (who has been waking me up at night, as a newborn should) slept from 10pm to 5am. I woke up at 5 and woke him up and tried feeding him, he still wouldn't eat a lot, he ate for a few minutes but still not the same. I put him back in bed and woke up at 7 and the same thing...
We left to go get our car from the Ford dealership, as it had been there for two days getting fixed. My pediatrician's office is literally next door, so I called her and she said yes, bring him in, she had an appointment open right then. We took him to the pediatrician and she is seriously the nicest pediatrician ever. I have been going to her since Cayden was two months old and have seen her when Cayden is sick and healthy, and nothing has ever come close to how I saw her today. I could tell in her eyes and the way she was talking that something was wrong. They had taken his temperature, which was 95.8 (low) and when they took it, some blood was in his stool. Both indicators that something was wrong. [side note: I didn't know until this whole thing that newborns actually fight infections with a LOW temperature, not necessarily high]. His was extremely low. She immediately said she wanted us to go to Dell Chidlren's Hospital. She called ahead for us, so when we arrived at the emergency room they knew exactly what was going on. Of course I was a basket case, my baby was going to have to have all of these tests, and I was playing the blame game on myself and how I could have prevented this, etc. etc. Tyler was such a huge support on the car ride over, praying for all of this. It was rush hour traffic (about 9:30 am), but surprisingly, and by God's grace, we got there in pretty good time.
We called both sets of parents and just to let them know what was going on and they both started praying and telling us to let them know what the ER said. That's the last info they knew. Tyler got Cayden out of his car seat, I got Bennett out of his, and we went inside. We thought we may be here a couple of hours because of the tests, so I was deciding who could come get Cayden, but I thought I'd wait until we knew more information regarding Bennett, before we called anyone.
They quickly got us back in triage, where they weighed him (he had lost 1lb since his weight check at the doctor on Monday), and they took his temperature again, it was down to 95.1. They took us down some hallway to a small ER room and we put Bennett in a hospital gown, and answered the many questions the Dr. asked. He was in his residency and told us he wasn't very confident in what to do for Bennett because his only symptoms were not eating and low temperature, so he went and got his boss, the attending Dr. She was very nice and told us they were going to take a thousand tests to eliminate what it could be. We were perfectly fine with that. One of the tests was a lumbar puncture. They asked Tyler and Cayden to step out of the room and I told them I wanted to stay, so they let me.
The next part of the day is all super slow motion, and somewhat a blur. Unfortunately, I will never get this day out of my head. All I can tell you is while I was a complete mess emotionally, Tyler and I still felt and clung to God's goodness all around us.
The Dr. and nurses in the room were all around him about to do the lumbar puncture when I saw all of his vitals they were monitoring drop, his arms dropped below his side (the Dr. was holding him up), his face go purple, and the Dr. yell, "Wake up baby, wake up baby," as she started rececitating him. They got out a child size green bag and started doing CPR on him. I lost it. I was shaking. I was praying. After studying Genesis this year, all I could think about in this instance was Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac, because he knew God loved Isaac even more than he did. God spared Isaac due to Abraham's faith. All in this 30 seconds of realizing my son was not breathing, I ran through this and I said in my head, "Lord, I am willing to give you Bennett, but please don't make me do that." I just kept praying that he would perform a miracle and save Bennett. Save my baby's life.
The doctors and nurses all ran out of our room with Bennett, still doing CPR. They went to some huge room down the hall. I followed. Tyler saw all of us run out of the room, picked up Cayden, and ran towards me. I yelled down the hall, "Tyler, he stopped breathing!" I see my husband start running as fast as he can, holding Cayden, crying like I have never seen him cry. We are a mess. Cayden, was being so good, realizing something was wrong, and just playing with a toy car and reading a book that the hospital staff had brought him. I wasn't worried about someone coming to get Cayden at this point, he can stay with us. We needed him. I couldn't call anyone, I just couldn't bring to life the fact that one of my sons was literally not breathing. I finally was able to call my dad, who I could tell was fighting back tears as well, and ask him to have all of BSF headquarters just stop and pray. I think my exact words to him on the phone were "Dad, he stopped breathing, please have everyone pray. Please just pray my baby stays alive." He said he was on his way to Austin, and would get my mom. My mom kept trying to call but too much was going on, her voicemails were really hard to listen to. I couldn't even understand her, she was a mess too. I had to delete them...I never, ever want to listen to those again. She was crying and praying in the voicemail, but I could tell her heart was not steady. She was afraid too. My mom is one of my solid anchors, and this was even too extreme for her. Next I called my mother in law, she was at a loss for words, and said, "Christina, we're on our way."
We were still in the giant surgery room at the end of the hall. There were probably 20 doctors/nurses surround Bennett, we couldn't see him, we could only hear him. And it was silent. Tyler and I just kept saying, "Come on Bennett, cry, cry, cry...." But still nothing. It had now been, what seemed like a lifetime. I think it had really been 45 minutes of them just trying to save his life. One of the hospital social workers came up to me (just doing her job), and asked, "Do you know what's going on mommy?" I felt like screaming! Yes I knew what was going on...my baby was not breathing. He was about to die. I just cried and said, "Yes, he stopped breathing." She nodded and asked how I felt. Again, felt like screaming. But I said, "Well, I'm 8 days post-partum, plus this." She just sat next to me in silence.
Tyler and I are just interlocked by our arms and interacting with Cayden, and praying out loud for the whole time we're in that terrible room. Finally, the Dr. comes over to me and says a ton of things (again, such a blur), but I hear, "He is stabilized for now, so we're going to have the NICU come get him and take him up there." Good, I was okay with that. We were at a children's hospital, but the NICU specifically would know an eight day old baby, and would be taken care of even better (the ER Dr. was fabulous).
The NICU nurse arrived downstairs with the incubator shortly after. Finally I could see Bennett. He looked so grey, so small, and so helpless. A view a mom never wants to see. Tyler, Cayden, and I were able to ride the elevator with the nurses & Bennett, while they continued to bag him with air.
We arrive on the NICU floor and they run him into his hospital room. There are already three doctors in there waiting, along with about ten nurses. [Later on we found out that there are NEVER three doctors in one room. Bennett was in bad shape.] The doctors immediately start asking us a ton of questions, the same ones that we answered in the ER. I am trying to dig in my mind for the answers. At this point, I have no memory, no words. My mind is just clouded with thoughts of "what if my baby dies?" The doctors asked us to take Cayden out to the family room while they stabilize Bennett and start some tests (they still had to get the lumbar puncture). We took Cayden out to the family room where there were toys and books and balls.
Both Tyler and I have decided this was one of the worst parts of the whole day. The last time we were in a family room, was when our good friend Dr. Chuck died. We did not have good memories in the family room. Not only that, we were now going to have to entertain Cayden with the books and balls while in our heads we were unsure if our newborn was going to survive, and with both of us feeling like we just wanted to vomit.
We made a few calls while in the family room. We called a couple from our small group (as we were supposed to host small group that night...and wouldn't be), and we called Tyler's best friend at work so his work would be updated on why he wouldn't be returning as soon as we thought, and I called one of our neighbors to update all our neighbors, as they wouldn't see us home in awhile. We still held off on telling everyone because we just didn't have an answer to anything yet, and also, we just couldn't do it. The five phone calls we had made at this point were the hardest thing and the people we talked to could barely understand either of us.
I did get one phone call while I was in the family room. I didn't talk, I just nodded, and she knew what I was saying without me even talking. My sister Jenni, who was in complete tears called. I picked up and said nothing, she said, "Elli and I are buying tickets and we're on our way." I said nothing in response but a head nod. But she knew I heard. I said, "I love you." We hung up. I will forever remember that phone call.
Tyler and I kept glancing at the clock. Still playing with Cayden, we were wondering how much longer. We were preparing for someone to come in and say he didn't make it. We were praying for the best. We were praying we would get to hold our baby. We just wanted to see him. We wanted him to be okay.
Finally, about an hour later (again, felt like a lifetime), someone came to get us. They taught us all the ins and outs of the NICU, and prepared us for a long stay here. But I didn't care, I would be here a year, if it meant my baby was alive. We scrubbed in and were able to go into Bennett's room. There he was. Laying in an incubator with an oxygen mask, chords, wires, pumps, monitors, a breathing tube. He did not look like Bennett, but he was alive. Praise Jesus, he had saved Bennett. We found out once they stabilized him that he had stopped breathing five times. I just couldn't wrap my head around it. But I knew Jesus had saved him. He spared his life.
I immediately ran to Bennett's side and held his IV'd hand, just sobbing. I had no words except, "Hi buddy. Mommy loves you, daddy loves you, and Jesus loves you. He is holding you in his hands." I think everyone in the room started crying.
The worst part was not being able to hold him. That's why I had to comfort myself, knowing that Jesus was holding him. He felt the presence of someone holding him...he wasn't just laying in an incubator.
Cayden kept pointing at Bennett, saying, "Baby?" I hated the question mark. You could tell he was confused. At this point I knew Cayden had to leave. Thankfully, my parents arrived shortly after. They got into the room, also in tears, and just hugged me. They talked to Bennett, and then grabbed Cayden (we tried to make it a fun big deal that he got to go be with Grandma and Grandpa). The three of them left for our house. We still didn't have any answers.
Tyler and I just sat in Bennett's room. All we could hear were the monitors beeping and oxygen pumping. We just cried. I'm running scenarios in my head. What could this be? Did I cause it? Is Bennett going to live? What the heck is going on?
Tyler and I listen to Matt Chandler (an amazing pastor from Dallas), and he has said before, "I have brain cancer and God is good. And those things can't be in conflict." I thought to myself, "Bennett is laying in the NICU and God is good. These things can't be in conflict." If I learned one thing from my study of Genesis last year, it is that God is sovereign. Knowing this characteristic of him, I never doubted his goodness. Yes I was scared. Yes I was a terrible mess. But I never once doubted God's goodness in and through the situation. He wasn't punishing me, he wasn't punishing Tyler. He had purpose in this "not to harm us, but give us a hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11).
While we were just sitting and staring at our sweet little boy, Tyler's parents arrived from Katy. Again, huge relief. Having all of our parents there was just what we needed. We were not alone. At this point, the only answer we had was that he definitely had an infection. And due to that infection, his body responded by dropping his temperature and becoming very lethargic. Lethargic to the point where, due to his age, he just wasn't remembering to breathe. Now they just wanted to figure out what the infection was so that they could help him fight it. Our doctors were very up front with us (they were amazing) and told us it could be days before we knew what was going on.
About an hour later, they already knew the culprit. The lumbar puncture came back positive for meningitis. We were thrilled we at least knew what was wrong. But now we wait. We wait to find out if it is bacterial or viral. After Jenni had it a few years ago, I knew we needed to pray for viral. Bacterial could have permanent life injury, and would have at least a 3 week NICU stay, viral would be about a week NICU stay (or until Bennett was doing everything on his own 100 percent--breathing, eating, pooping, & sleeping), and would not cause permanent damage. The Dr. said we would know in three days, after the cultures grew, if it was bacterial or viral.
We began to pray this was viral. We didn't wait three days. We waited three hours. AMAZING. According to his glucose, protein, and other levels everything was pointing to viral. Praise Jesus. And finally, a test they received late that night, confirmed it was indeed viral. They still kept him on the antibiotics, just in case any bacteria grew over the next three days, but they said very rarely do bacterial and viral co-exist. Thank you Jesus for giving us such a clear answer so much sooner than we thought. Of course, I was playing the blame game. How did my eight day old get meningitis? They assured me there wasn't anything I could've done or couldn't have done that would have mattered. That they believe he was born with it, as some babies are born with certain spores on their mouths that can either get certain viruses or can't. Bennett's could. [Remember everything was still a blur at this point so all I heard was birth, spores, blah blah blah--so I'm not 100 percent sure what exactly they said!]
Dell Childrens allows families to stay with the baby 24/7. Tyler and I were planning on staying in the recliners in the room with Bennett, but they actually had a "family room" open to stay in, with a double bed and a bathroom. We were able to stay in that room the whole time we were there and be with Bennett at any time. We were so thankful for that accommodation. I still wanted someone in the room with Bennett at night, though, and everyone wouldn't let me (they all said I needed "quality" sleep...like that would happen after a day like today), so my mom & mother in law offered to switch out who was in the room every two hours overnight. What fabulous grandmas ;) Tyler and I were able to get some sleep, but I still woke up at 5am.
I woke up thinking maybe, just maybe, this had all just been a bad dream. But there I was, laying in mine and Tyler's NICU bedroom. Not a dream at all, but at least Bennett was alive.
I went into Bennett's room and my mom & Rose were sitting in there talking. I walked in and just cried. They both comforted me. I hated seeing Bennett in the condition he was in, and hated that I still couldn't hold him. He could hear my voice, but he couldn't feel my touch. He had gone 9 months hearing my voice right next to him, and then bam, he was all alone in this incubator. He looked so uncomfortable. He had wires coming out of his mouth, that made him look like he couldn't move his tongue. He had oxygen over his nose which made it look like he was constantly struggling; and he had monitors all over his body which made him look all tangled. I just hated that he looked in pain and uncomfortable.
I think the nurse could tell I needed to hold him. She got him out of the incubator and asked if I wanted to. UMMMMM YEAH!!! I finally got to hold my baby. I just cried. I just held him and thanked God for him and just talked to him. He wasn't opening his eyes but I know he knew I was there. I told him how much I loved him.
Since the meningitis was viral, they told us they were going to let Bennett determine all the action. If he looked like he could be off oxygen, they'd try it. If he seemed like he could eat, they'd try it. But they still prepared us for a long journey in the NICU. Less than 24 hours in the NICU and they said they were going to take off his oxygen. I was very excited but at the same time worried...what if it didn't work. Tyler assured me if it's not going to work, he's exactly where we want him if he stopped breathing again. So true. They took him off of it around 8 am Friday. He stayed exactly where he needed to be for 24 hours! After the 24 hours, they took the oxygen completely out of the room!!!! My fighter had passed step 1 and my God had proved to everyone how sovereign and good he truly is.
While he was hooked up to the oxygen they would feed him my breast milk through a feeding tube through his nose. When he got off the oxygen they said we think he's ready to eat! I tried breastfeeding but he was just so tired still. He'd latch and just fall asleep. So we did a bottle and he drank so much like a champ! Finally, Saturday morning, he was breastfeeding like normal again!
Little by little, Bennett was acting normal again. The doctors were amazed, we were amazed, and specifically his nurse was amazed. She had admitted him on Thursday and she told us much later (after he was almost 100 percent) that when they got him on Thursday the whole NICU floor didn't think he was going to make it.
What a mighty God I serve.
By Saturday afternoon, Bennett had almost every pump, wire, chord, mask, and IV out! The only ones left were the heart monitors. The doctors did their rounds and said as long as nothing happened overnight, Bennett could go home in the morning. I know they were amazed at their answer as much as we were. We were thinking we'd be here much longer, but we were covered in prayer, literally around the world, and God heard, and not only answered, but went above and beyond. I am not surprised.
Sunday morning, we loaded Bennett in the car and got to go home. Finally, our family of 4 was together again. Cayden is so happy and we are thrilled to get back to "normal".
I'm sure I forgot a lot of detail in the days he was at the NICU. Again, it was a blur. We are so thankful for our family who got to Austin as soon as they could. Our parents, Brandon & Rachel, and Jenni and Elli were here in a heartbeat. Our friends sent messages, posted on facebook, we received phone calls, our small group helped so much, as well as our neighbors! We were just smothered in love and prayers. Thank you for every prayer you prayed and any word of encouragement you sent. I could feel the presence of Jesus all around us and know that it is because of the prayers from all of you for peace. As I look back I can see God's hand in so many ways. His grace was surrounding the whole situation. Thursday morning, I didn't shower. That saved us 30 minutes of time (He stopped breathing about 20 minutes after we arrived at the ER). We were already in Austin when we had to go to the hospital, if we were in Leander, he could've stopped breathing while we were in the car, depending on traffic. He didn't stop breathing overnight, or even in the car where we wouldn't necessarily notice. He stopped breathing with a ton of medical professionals surrounding him. By God's grace, he was where he needed to be, when he needed to be there. God had everything orchestrated perfectly. I am both thankful and in awe.
I hope that through this terrible situation, Jesus' light shined. I hope that he was glorified through little Bennett's eight day old life. May he continue to be glorified the rest of Bennett's life.
(These are hard and terrible pictures, but I feel like I need to post them to show how truly his life is a miracle that only God could do.)
In the ER before he stopped breathing
All of the doctors and nurses around Bennett trying to get him to breathe again
How Bennett was when they had him stabilized
The first time I got to hold him. Does a Mama's heart good
Talking to him, telling him I love him
Holding him for the first time
Taking his IV's out!!!
Only a couple of monitors left!!
Upgraded to a crib from a warmer (he was maintaining his own temperature)
First time breastfeeding again! Milk drunk :)
His fabulous day nurse, Melody, he had all 3 days. Nurses are true gifts to parents while they travel hard roads.
The communication board to his medical staff. This was our last day there!
The difference in 4 days is astouding. We're going home!!
Each NICU room was decorated by the nurses. Helped feel like a home away from home. While it definitely is never ideal being in the hospital, this made it a little special.
Waiting to be discharged!!!!
Home sweet home as a family of 4!