by Holly

During my 3rd trimester ultrasound with the perinatologist, we found out that Baby Chunbao was slightly underweight – about 10 percentile.  We thought OK, we are Asian and Asians are just smaller albeit both hubby and I are tall Asians. He also wasn’t moving as much so then we thought he might just be a calm person like hubby and I. 

We went back in 2 weeks for a follow-up ultrasound and to our surprise, Baby Chunbao dropped to 4 percentile weight! 

The doctors ordered NST and AFI twice a week until I delivered. This means going to the hospital twice a week and having my belly strapped with a baby heart monitor for at least 30 minutes. We went for about 6 times and passed the tests every time.

On my 35th week, April 24th, with Baby Chunbao I suddenly felt a really bad cramp, and just minutes later turned into agonizing pain. I thought to myself “This is way too soon. I don’t want a preemie!”

I screamed and yelled on the way to the hospital.  Still, in my PJ, Baby Chunbao came out seconds after  I jumped onto the labor bed. Without my pediatrician there, without an epidural, or any IV lines I delivered my baby! My husband was still at the valet and here came our son! All I heard was “Crash cart! crash cart! They baby is small! The baby is not breathing!”

The neonatologist resuscitated my newborn for 6 minutes while my pediatrician rushed in to check up on me. They told me that Baby Chunbao experienced a trauma during birth and he needs to be transferred to the Children’s Hospital. We followed our baby to the hospital’s NICU where about 15 medical staff had their hands around my baby.  After a long hour, he was carefully put in a transport bed, and off he went to the Children’s Hospital.

Separated from my newborn

I stayed in my delivery hospital for 3 days because I wanted to recover as soon as possible. I know I need to stay strong for both Baby Chunbao and hubby. I religiously pumped every 3 hours because the only thing I can do now is just that. Each day at the hospital feels like an eternity, especially being separated from my baby. My dream to hold my newborn skin-to-skin burst into bubbles.  We prayed that our baby would be OK as I count down to the moment I get to visit him.

Monitoring for stroke on the cooling bed

Baby Chunbao’s first 3 days of life determined whether he live or die, or to a lesser extent, whether he would be disabled for the rest of his life. He was put on a cooling bed to preserve further brain cell damage. He was monitored for stroke, intubated, and had IV lines throughout his body for medication and nutrition delivery. He was clearly in agony hanging on to a thread of life. I was in despair, but I converted my sadness to strength. I ate healthily, went home to sleep in my own bed, and asked the doctors questions. I was glad I didn’t google all the medical terms I’ve encountered or else I would’ve gone insane!

Holding him for the first time

In the next 44 days, Baby Chunbao will be stripped away each life support onto the road of recovery. We were ecstatic when doctors relieved him of intubation after a week.  He no longer needs blood pressure and acidosis medications. He started taking breast milk via NG tube rather than TPN via IV into his belly button. Finally, we held him for the very first time after 9 days!

Hip dysplasia and the Pavlik harness

Just when we thought he was getting better, we found out our son has hip dysplasia. He was then put into the Pavlik harness 24 hours for the next 6 weeks. This makes holding my poor little guy more difficult than ever. We were sad that he needed to wear such a restricting body suit but we knew it was the best thing for him. Just when we were beginning to learn about his hip issues, he got a UTI 🙁 The doctor thought that he had a congenital urinary tract problem so did a fluorescent imagining to rule it out.  Luckily a week of antibiotics cleared away his infection.

Just when we thought he was getting better…

The last 2 weeks of our NICU journey were all about taking Chunbao home. To discharge him, he needs to be able to bottle feed. Since he was intubated and never touched a nipple, learning how to eat was an uphill battle. Besides weekly visits from the physical therapist, we worked with the feeding expert to train Chunbao on the basics of bottle feeding. At first, he fell asleep during feeds because he was sick and weak. Eating for any NICU baby is like running a marathon. 

As Chunbao got stronger each day he was able to feed longer without dosing off. When we thought going home was imminent, they accidentally found out that Chunbao had a blood clot during an abdominal ultrasound! It appears to be quite common for NICU babies to develop clots from IV lines because of our body’s natural response to foreign objects in the veins. The treatment plan was to inject his blood thinner twice a day for at least 3 months! We learned to inject him on his thighs and we did it for the next 4 months…

Going home on oxygen

Ok so what now…he almost died, lived in a restricting harness 24 hours, and got injections twice a day. These should be it and we’ll be going home soon. It appears that Chunbao had sleep apnea so this means that he’ll be going home on oxygen. I almost broke down when I heard this because wearing the oxygen tube 24 hours a day and carrying the oxygen tank wherever we go will be a total hit on our quality of life. But at the end of the day, I’m grateful that Chunbao is ok and will become healthy at some point in his life.

Although we finally took Chunbao home after 44 days of NICU residency, we still often go back to the hospital for his specialist visit. Those include hematology, orthopedic, neurology, pulmonary, and high-risk infant follow-up.  The hospital is like our second home 😐 Chunbao also has therapy sessions 3 times a week with physical therapist, occupational therapist, and child development specialist. Since he was a preemie and hospitalized for an extended period of time, the state recommends this support for infants with high-risk developmental issues.

At the time of this writing, Chunbao is 5 months adjusted age and has met all of his milestones. He is cured of hip dysplasia and no longer needs blood thinner injections. He still wears oxygen during his naps and we’re hoping that he’ll be off of it soon. 

Despite all that he’s been through, we never baby or spoil him. We set realistic goals every week and helped him accomplish them. We spent hours each day playing with him and never missed a doctors appointment. Through this traumatic experience, Chunbao showed us how resilient babies are and how NICU babies are mighty fighters!!

I want to thank the awesome medical staffs at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. I am forever grateful for the world-class services the team of doctors, nurses, technicians, therapists and counselors provided. They literally saved my son’s life!

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