The calm before the storm

Written 12 August 2013

Five and a half weeks ago our son was born. After labour starting and stopping for a couple of days, at 9pm on Wednesday 3 July things really kicked in. I knew pretty quickly we needed to head to the hospital, so after dropping our 23 month old daughter off at Mum & Dad's, we arrived at the hospital at about 11:30pm. At 1am on Thursday 4 July, our son was born, with the sack still in tack. It's such a rare thing to happen, and many of the staff on duty had never seen a baby born that way. He was slightly blue but cried quickly and passed all the initial tests with flying colours.

An hour or so after his birth we were told his lactates were slightly high (tested from the cord blood) but that it was nothing to worry about - it may just make him slightly prone to infection to begin with. Our son was checked over by a paediatrician the next morning, and despite his heart rate being on the high end of the 'normal' scale he was given the all clear. The head nurse even asked if I'd be happy to go home straight away! I said another night would be better thanks!

Our baby was incredibly settled and fed well. My husband and I couldn't believe how lucky we were to have another really easy baby. Our daughter absolutely loved him - a completely smitten sister.

I was asked again on Friday morning if I could either go home or move to another ward downstairs, where there wouldn't be a midwife on duty. My husband and I decided to go but spend the day at Mum & Dad's to save the 45 minute drive home so early on and also because hardly anyone had got to meet our new baby yet. Mum had been sick with a pretty bad cough but we thought it would be fine. She'd been on antibiotics and we knew she wouldn't go close to our new son. Dad also kept his distance as he hadn't been feeling great. We ended up staying until dinner and then took our little family home.

The first few days of our son’s life were spent going out for coffee, going to church, seeing our osteo, having a couple of visits from the midwives and Maternal Child Health nurse. By Wednesday [he was six days old] we were ready to head away to Walkerville [about 1 hour 45 min drive] for a family weekend. Dad, Mum, Pa & Nan were all there so it was a great chance to get away. We had such great weather and our daughter even had a splash in the beach one day.

At one stage during our time at Walkerville, we all noticed how blue our baby boy’s feet were. I warmed them up by blowing on them and rubbing them, and Mum & Nan knit him some booties to try and warm them up. It helped a bit but they were definitely still on the blue side. I didn't think too much of it as I remember our daughter’s feet being a bit blue as a baby.

Life went on completely as normal until Wednesday 17 July. Our son had continued to be an incredibly easy baby, so my youngest brother and I organised a trip to Ballarat to visit Grandad & Grandma. They really wanted to see our baby and it was a good excuse to head out for the day. Our baby had started getting a cough on the Sunday which we think he caught off our daughter (who probably got if from Dad & Mum). It started getting worse on the Wednesday and my husband and I were kicking ourselves that we'd gone to Mum & Dad's from the hospital. Grandma seemed a bit worried about our baby’s cough and I was more worried when he did a big vomit at Grandad & Grandma's just before we left.

Not being one to rush off to the doctors (and not wanting to sit in ED for hours) I rang a friend who was studying paediatrics to see if she thought we should get him checked out. I can't remember exactly what she said, but for whatever reason we decided to take him to hospital.

That's when all the madness began. It was also the last time that we had a 'healthy' baby. We had no idea at that stage that we were going to find out about a serious and life threatening condition that our son had. We had no idea that it would probably mean a life of medical appointments, medications and surgery. We didn't know the impact it would have on us or the wider community. Or that more importantly, we had a little fighter on our hands who would continue to blow the doctors away.


Postscript

It's so important that I add here that our son (now know as a HeartKid) caught bronchiolitis and RSV, brought on by the virus my Mum had. This saved his life. We are so thankful that we were discharged from hospital quite early after he was born and that he caught that cough. I'm thankful that it was bad enough for us to take him to hospital. I'm so thankful that my Grandma said she was worried. She's a mum of six and grandmother to 18 so I thought if she was worried then there was probably good reason to worry. I'm thankful for my friend studying paediatrics, who didn't tell me I was over-reacting and that it would be wise to get our baby checked out. If those things hadn't happened, we very easily could have lost our little boy.