Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I'm Declaring a National Holiday

Exactly one year ago today was both one of the best days and one of the worst days in my life. It was one of the best days in my life because our second son, Chase Everett, was born at 4:38am, weighing in at 7 lb, 7 oz and 19.5", with a full head of hair. But what should have been such a joyful experience quickly became the exact opposite when the doctors and nurses immediately realized that something was very wrong with Chase. He was a pale blue-ish white color, he struggled to breathe, and he was not moving or making any noise.

After several minutes of trying to get Chase to cry without success, the doctors and nurses rushed Chase out of the room. Before I even had a chance to hold my new baby, he was taken away by strangers. The delivery room suddenly became eerily quiet and empty. Chad and I were left in the room with my doctor and one nurse, neither of whom had any idea what was wrong. No one wanted to say anything because no one knew what to say.

The minutes passed, seeming like hours. Finally the doctor from the NICU came into the room. We all held our breath, not sure we wanted to hear what she was going to say. Then the news came; Chase was alive. But before we could enjoy the moment, a "but" followed what we thought was good news. He was alive at the moment, but somehow he had lost 80% of his blood and was born with only 20% of the blood that most babies are born with. They had already started him on a blood transfusion with the universal blood type because he didn't even have enough of his own blood for them to figure out what type he was yet. But the transfusion was not guaranteed to save him. Even if the transfusion did save him, there were numerous complications associated with his lack of blood. He could have permanent brain damage. He could have organ failure. And the hardest part was that we just had to wait to see what happened.

4/5/10 Day 1 in the NICU: We were finally allowed to visit Chase in the NICU at 11:30am, when he was just over 7 hours old. When I first saw him the tears started flowing. I wasn't crying because I was sad. I was crying because while he was hooked up to tubes, wires and oxygen, he looked like a normal baby. He did not look like the ghostly baby that was the only image of him that I had up until this moment. He was finishing a second blood transfusion, now using his own blood type, which they were able to figure out. We learned from a test of my blood that Chase had bled into me, but to this day we still do not know how this happened.

4/6/10 Day 2 in the NICU: I was able to touch Chase for the first time. We still couldn't hold him, and we could only touch him very gently, but it was a start. He had a third blood transfusion, plus numerous tests on various organs.

4/7/10 Day 3 in the NICU: I was able to hold Chase for the first time. He was hooked up to lots of wires and machines, and I was so scared I would hurt him just by touching him. I felt like I was holding an injured animal, not my own son. He had more and more tests, and amazingly every one came back with good results. Chase was already improving greatly, but it was still a waiting game. I had so many questions that couldn't be answered. I wanted to ask the nurses so badly if they thought he would survive through all this, but I knew they couldn't answer this question; even if they could, I couldn't gather up the courage to let the words escape my lips.

My first time holding Chase
4/8/10 Day 4 in the NICU: This was the first day that they let Chase eat anything. They were worried that his digestive system needed time to recover from his trauma, so up until now all his nourishment came from his IV. I had been pumping breastmilk, and they allowed him to have only a few mL at first to make sure he could tolerate it. Once that went ok they allowed him to have a little bit every four hours. One by one, they slowly started weaning him off of all the tubes and wires and breathing support.

4/9/10 Day 5 in the NICU: Everyone is amazed with how Chase is doing. They let him eat whenever he is hungry today. I nursed him for the first time. He is now completely functioning on his own, without any support from machines.

4/10/10 Amazingly we were able to take Chase home after only 5 days in the NICU. I'm scared to death to have him at home without the support of the machines and the care of the nurses and doctors, but everyone assures me that they wouldn't be letting him go home if they had any hesitations. They tell me that they have fixed what is wrong and that we should view him as a normal baby now. I wonder if I will ever be able to do this. Big brother Alec gets to meet his little brother for the first time.

Our first family photo, right before leaving the hospital
In Chase's first week of life, we learned a great deal about him. We learned that he is a fighter. We learned that he does not give up. We learned that he wanted to be here with us.

4/10/11: One year later. I have a happy, healthy 1-year-old who I thank God for every day. Chad & I are so blessed that things turned out the way they did. Miraculously Chase has no long-term damage from the trauma he sustained at or before birth. We still need to watch his development very closely to make sure he hits all his milestones, but to date he's been doing this and has even hit some earlier than Alec did.

Chase as a happy almost-1-year-old
While most parents use a child's first birthday (and following birthdays) to celebrate the birth of the child, I would like to celebrate something else today. I would like to celebrate all the doctors, nurses and other staff at NICUs across the world. Because of their training and dedication, Chase is here with us to celebrate his first birthday. Without them, my life today would be a very different life. I know I can't officially declare a national holiday, but for me, April 5 will always be a date to honor these individuals who work long hours doing everything they can to provide outcomes like Chase's. There are holidays for veterans, mothers, fathers, grandparents, religious figures, historical figures and even groundhogs, and while I take part in celebrating most of these holidays, it seems only appropriate that I should set aside a special day to honor my other heroes. And I can't think of a better day than the day they saved my son's life.

Most parents also use a child's birthday to remember the day the child was born. I can tell you that I don't need a birthday to remember this day for Chase. In the last 365 days, I have thought about his birth every single day, at least once. Sometimes I think about it while I am rocking him to sleep. Sometimes I think about it when he is screaming and I am ready to lose my mind. Sometimes I think about it when he is happily playing with a toy. Sometimes I think about it when I'm watching TV. I never know when the memory will pop into my head. But I do know that I remember it as if it were yesterday.

Thankfully I called my doctor on April 4, 2010, Easter Sunday, because I hadn't felt the baby move in almost a day. Thankfully the doctor didn't just tell me to drink some juice and lie down (which I had already done). Thankfully I was in a hospital with a Level III NICU that was able to handle our case. I honestly feel that every doctor and nurse that helped Chase was an angel that God sent to save my baby.

If you are reading this blog (and still reading now, since this is a pretty lengthy one!), I have two requests of you. My first request is that you take a few minutes out of your day to sincerely thank anyone you know that works in a NICU. Even if it is someone you haven't talked to in years, please let them know that their work is appreciated more than they will ever realize. My second request applies to parents. If you are a parent, please tell your child(ren) that you love them one extra time today. Even if you've already told them 100 times today, tell them 101. Give them an extra hug and kiss and just take a moment to hold them and be thankful that they are a part of your life.

Happy first birthday Chase!


  1. Wow Kim, I had no idea! I am so thankful to have read your story...now grabbing the tissues. Thank you for sharing, xoxoxo!

  2. This link was posted on the Facebook page of my neighbor, and what a beautiful story it is, and what a testimony of God's miracles! Thanks so much for sharing with others your story about Chase. I am so glad that it had a happy ending. God bless you and your family abundantly Kim!!