We wrapped up Elijah and placed him in his new car seat, had to roll up a towel and use it to stabilize him since he was so small for the car seat. All plugged in to his heart/respiratory monitor and mom stayed with him in the back seat to watch him as we drove home. Along the way the monitor alarms went off! Wife panicked, I pulled over to see what is going on. Nothing, he just squirmed around a little and the monitor couldn’t detect anything for a moment. I found out that in certain positions and while he was moving around, the monitor won’t pick up a heart rate or breathing, but everything was okay. Wish I had known that before! Once home we settled into a normal routine, as much as possible with the monitor alarms going off several times a night and both of us waking up in a panic mode. But Elijah was doing fine, sleeping a lot and drinking his formula and doing his part of going through diapers, which is a good sign, especially with his intestine surgery.
HE was doing well, growing and getting fatter. Trips to the pediatrician to make sure all were going well and some ventures out after a while to church and general trips. We didn’t take him out too much due to the cool weather at the time, and to keep his exposure to others to a minimum. After a while, we noticed he had trouble trying to roll over and even push himself up on his arms, so we went back and the doctors said he was developmentally delayed due to being premature. So they started weekly therapy to help his gross and fine motor skills. Elijah was doing better but still had trouble, the decision was made to transfer us back to the States for more therapy than what could be provided there. We took Elijah back to the German hospital to say goodbye and take pictures with his nurses and doctors. Then when he turned one year old, we left for a vacation at our parent’s homes, then on to Virginia.
Our parents love seeing Elijah for the first time, but I didn’t keep him with my mom for very long because she would smoke and I didn’t want that exposure for him and his premature lungs. Otherwise things went well and we all had a good time. We drove our new van to Virginia while her parents kept Elijah until we could get settled in there. We found a place and then my wife flew back and got Elijah. He started therapy and did well with it, he continued to grow and develop as a normal baby would. The doctors noticed he had crossed eyes; they scheduled the surgery at the naval hospital in Norfolk. We took him that morning and he had the surgery done a few hours later. They disconnected a muscle that was attached to one side of his eye and reattached it at a different location, thus correcting his cross eyes. Recovery was quick, just one over night stay and he came home.
Now that he was doing well and all the immediate issues corrected, I wondered and worried about his future. How would he do in school, will he ride a bike, drive a car, even graduate from high school? But I was thankful that he had made it and was alive, all the rest we could work on adjust. Early school years were okay, but as he got older and the subjects got more difficult, he needed to attend special education for his learning disabilities. He can learn anything, but at his pace. Too often school go at a set pace and don’t adjust for kids who are advanced or delayed. Some years were better than others, and some teachers, educators, were better than others. You feel so bad for your preemie that they have to struggle due to no fault of their own, but I feel they turn out a better person because of it. The hurdles they have had to overcome, it strengthen them and make them wiser and more mature than kids who never had to experience it.
Elijah struggled with later years in school, but thanks to many good people at his school, he did graduate and received his diploma. He learned to drive with no issues, just a lead foot at first! He learned a lot from his younger brother and thanks to his help, Elijah caught up quickly in many areas. He even played baseball, soccer, and flag football as a teen. Today Elijah is now on his own, driving and holding down a full-time job. He recently experienced the loss of his mother for whom he took care of in her last years. I am very proud of him and of all he has overcome; he didn’t fall to drugs, alcohol, or other things that many kids experiment with. He has turned out to be a fine young man!
My takeaway from his story is that you should never give up hope with your preemie. They can go from a tiny infant that fits in your palm to a full grown individual that is strong and terrific. The pain and anxiety with your preemie will be healed with time; you will grow stronger and able to handle many things you never knew you could handle. Our preemies teach us also.