Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Glad I Don't Have a Baby in the NICU Right Now...

I'm glad for many reasons, but specifically becuase of the H1N1 virus, which is running rampant around us in our community circles.

Mike volunteered last night at the NICU (once a month the nonprofit organization we helped cofound, Precious Beginnings, cohosts a free dinner for NICU parents), and he saw signs at the entrance to the NICU and Maternity saying that minors were not allowed because of the fears of H1N1. Emanuel Hospital has decided to cancel its NICU reunion this fall, presumably to keep potentially sick kids away from the hospital and also to prevent exposure of the staff. Many hospitals are implementing a policy prohibiting children from maternity wards. When Chris was in the NICU, siblings were allowed to visit...but it always made me very nervous when they did, because I was terrified that Chris would get infected (a very real concern when he was that small).

In those days, our biggest fear was respiratory syntitial virus, or RSV. A much bigger preemie, a 34-weeker, who was in the NICU at the same time as Chris, went home from the hospital, contracted RSV, spent a month in the PICU, and died. So given the fact that we had a 1 lb, 6 oz 24-weeker, we were terrified of RSV. Any time people came to visit (after we went home), we'd ask them to wash their hands before even being near Chris. He stayed healthy for a year after he came home--probably because of the breast milk. After we visited the UK and my breast pump blew up (I had to pump for him because he couldn't nurse), we returned home and he got RSV. He ended up contracting pneumonia and spent five days in the hospital in isolation, his lungs full of gunky fluid. All of the NICU nurses told us how lucky we were to stay out of the hospital for a full year. I did not feel very lucky.

I'm imagining how it would feel to have an NICU baby right now, with H1N1 killing fragile babies and children. Those poor, worried parents. I would hope that when they take their babies home, people will be understanding when they are asked to wash their hands and stay away from the babies when they are sick.

I also feel for those moms in family birth centers who have just had babies, and their other children are not able to visit them. Most moms don't stay very long after they have babies, but c-section moms do. My kids would have been very upset if they hadn't been able to see me or their little brother for 3 days until we arrived home. I know this is the way things used to be long ago...but nowadays children are generally welcomed in hospitals. Now they are potential germ carriers.

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