When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for teens, I got involved, putting some in my 14-year-old son’s arms. He was recently diagnosed with asthma. And the quarantine reminded of the earlier period of isolation. A family that many families have endured before this epidemic, which still has to be applied to almost 1 in 10 American-born babies.
I watched որդ worried about my son’s lungs as he was rushed to intensive care immediately after birth. She arrived on a condition known as transient tachypnea or TTN. Rapid, shallow breathing due to amniotic fluid in the lungs. The lungs, unlike the heart, do not “connect” until the first breath. In some cases, the fluid stretches after birth, clogging the alveoli and air sacs of the lungs.
Most cases of TTN go away in a day or two, but this is not the case. He developed recurrent pneumonia, bluish-gray skin, and was taken by ambulance to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where he was airlifted.
Vulnerable care vault
The NICU is a rare hospital vault where some heartbreaking scenes take place. When I looked through the windows of the other rooms in the capsules, I saw babies so small that they disregarded logic. I weigh less than a kilogram. Next to them were shiny, whistling, tricky cars և parents whose faces betrayed their determination to go the distance with their children for fear of their own.
These places, of course, are expensive; they can even act as a reserve army in case of extreme necessity. In December of last year, when the usual ICU area in California was almost empty, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange changed its ten newborn beds for adults to allow adults to use small lung air conditioners, such as my son’s.
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Then came a strange coincidence. A month after our son came home, my wife, a medical social worker, moved to work at NICU, our local Catholic hospital in Wisconsin. I was already obsessed with NICU, given our experience, but when he started working there, I was obsessed. I visited nurses and doctors at every staff party I attended, and spent six months volunteering at the department, motivating them to want to be closer to the stories my wife told at dinner.
In recent decades, neonatal medicine has evolved at an almost meteoric rate. In 1963, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, the son of President John F. Kennedy և First Lady Qu Aklin Kennedy, was born 5 1/2 weeks prematurely and died 39 hours later from respiratory distress syndrome, or RDS.
Today, with the development of steroid therapy և replacement of surfactants, the National Institutes of Health reports a “very good chance of survival” for infants born with RSS. Premature babies can often withstand the ever-increasing conditions that were previously considered deadly; in general, American hospitals will try to save babies born in the 22nd week of pregnancy.
In rare cases, even premature babies survive barely halfway through pregnancy.
Watch և wait, և express hope
For a “prematurely premature” baby born before 28 weeks, NICU admission means months of quarantine not only inside the unit but also in the Plexiglas isolator. Complications, failures և surgeries are so common that parents are warned to wait for them, adding days, weeks and sometimes months to their stay. Watchmakers can do much more than just watch and wait.
NICU families thus know what the rest of the world should have learned recently. The blessing of masking և fanatic hand washing և the blessing of hot food left on the doorstep. Most of all, they know isolation. While the premiere world is limited to a small box, the areas occupied by parents are slightly larger. A corner of a small room, if they are lucky enough to have a private room. otherwise, a savannah chair in the curtain bed area.
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The lights inside the block are dim, the covers are covered with blankets, everyone is talking in a whisper. Due to the risk of infection, personal cell phones and visitors are prohibited, except for the baby’s parents, who often include grandparents. During my volunteer career, one mom told me that being in NICU was like a whirlwind. He would show up after breakfast, before he knew it, the mother was coming.
As the child left the NICU, the rules often became even stricter. For months, the child could not go to the supermarket, church or family gatherings. Because the babies were tied up at home, so were at least one of their parents. In many cases, though certainly not all, the baby’s immune system երը lungs would eventually make it և normal life, or something like that, could be restored. But no one could say for sure what would happen.
After the storm
Many of the NICU parents I met said that it was difficult for their friends and family to understand the time they spent in their ward, as well as the alarming caution they felt years later. After all, their babies were gone. Wasn’t everything right now?
Yes and no. Although newborns are surviving earlier than ever before, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that more than 20% of NICU parents still have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder within a year of leaving the department. You can remove the baby from the NICU, but removing the NICU from the family is another matter.
Many people who survive the coronavirus are more likely to experience symptoms of PTSD for years to come. So do family and friends who have watched their loved ones suffer and die. Perhaps the epidemic, with all its horrors and inconveniences, will help us to understand each other a little better.
The world changed forever.My son was born on 9/11. He is currently graduating from high school with a global epidemic
I felt hopeful as the nurse plunged the needle into my son’s shoulder to deliver his first dose of the vaccine. He was safe, “we could finally start the epidemic behind us.” Right at the top of the hospital where our quarantine ended, the other quarantines were still going on and would continue for a long time. Somewhere in my city, a child was reaching the brink of life as soon as possible. The quarantine of that child և his parents were just beginning.
David McGlyn’s latest book is: “One day you will thank me. Lessons from an unexpected fatherhood. ” He is a professor of English at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, and recently completed a book on life in the neonatal intensive care unit.
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