He was so tiny and looked like a wrinkled old man! So thin and fragile! I though for sure he wasn’t going to survive this, I was so scared and anxious. I didn’t want to get this far and lose another one. I remained as calm as possible for the wife. She did great with her part of the delivery and recovery. They quickly did the Apgar evaluation and his score was pretty low. More concerned about getting him stable and warm for the ambulance ride to the German hospital. As they took him away, my wife and I prayed that all will go well for Elijah, but our fears and anxiety continued.
My wife’s recovery was good enough for her to go with me the next day down to the German Mutterhaus in Trier. Our car was old but we made it okay, now to find the place. After a while we found the right building with the neo-natal intensive care unit was at, at find someone to translate for us. They had us complete paperwork and then we were taken to where the babies were kept at. He was in an incubator in a special room for newborns. He looked so tiny and fragile. He had IVs in his head since his arms and legs were too tiny for them. His face was dark and shriveled. But the nurses explained that was normal and he would fill-in as he gained weight. The doctor came in and said a duct in his heart that would normally close after birth, has not closed and they would need to have surgery to go in and close it. Oh great! Now a heart surgery! He was on a ventilator and had a feeding tube. They wanted to get him off the ventilator as soon as possible to prevent any long-term damage. But it would take some time to see exactly when that would be. Aside from that, there was nothing else to do but hope and pray. We both quietly discussed what we would do if he didn’t make it, we agreed to have a simple burial back home in New Mexico. Praying it wouldn’t come to that…
They scheduled his heart surgery at another hospital in a few days and updated us on his condition. He was still with us and doing okay, but for how long? They took him by helicopter to the other hospital and we rented a car (ours was too old to make it that far), and drove down there the day of the surgery. Because he was so tiny, he had a scar from his back all around to his chest. But they were able to close off the duct with a metal band. His recovery was good; we even brought him a stuffed toy and some pictures to tape to his incubator. Something colorful for him aside from the sterile white hospital with it’s constant beeps and alarms going off. In a few days, he went back to the Mutterhaus and continued to progress ever it so slowly. The next situation was now he had a blockage between his large and small intestine, needed to remove it so he could eliminate waste normally. Ugh! Will things ever get better? I think be both aged 10 years during this ordeal. But as long as he got better, I could handle it.
A week later they operated on his intestines, clearing the blockage and inserting a tube while the intestine healed. He was still on that respirator and they said he had minor bleeding on the brain. Hopefully it would stop and not happen again. The daily visits were exhausting; the emotional toll after awhile was immense. We wanted our baby to get better, but there was nothing we could do to help. We did what we could, more pictures and toys, talking to him, singing, and finally being able to touch him. The nurses had tied a splint looking thing to his arm so he wouldn’t move it and pull out his tubes by accident. We nicknamed him Rambo since it looked like he had a gun. We were able to smile for the first time. Better yet, the perfect Mother’s Day present, my wife got to hold Elijah for the first time. Best day ever!
He progressed slowly but surely. At last! No more ventilators! Happy day! Since we were far away from the hospital, my wife couldn’t bring breast milk for Elijah. I felt bad for him about that since that is the best thing for a baby, especially a preemie. But he did get great care from the German medical staff; they were very professional and understanding. We started to stay there longer on the weekends. We would go to the cafeteria to eat….they even sold beer! Saw a German man with his jaw wired shut, drinking a beer by pouring down his feeding tube!! The German’s sure know how to take care of the people there! They even had a park nearby we would go to and just relax, before visiting Elijah again and then heading home. On the days I could go due to work, my wife would take the bus down to see Elijah, then heading home the same way, so glad the German buses are clean, reliable, and safe. My wife’s sister and cousin flew in and stayed with us a few weeks to see Elijah. Things started to look like he would make it.
The doctors sat down and told us that with the bleeding he had on his brain, Elijah might end up with cerebral palsy later on, only time will tell. One step forward, two steps back! He overcame heart surgery, intestine surgery, no respirator issues, now and another hurdle to jump. I felt so bad for him, hate to see your child in so much pain and discomfort. So helpless, so agonizing! All I could do was hold him, talk to him, and most importantly…pray for him. The goal was for him to get to 5 pounds and drinking from a bottle so he could go home. So they moved him to the general ward with the rest of the babies. He started to look around more and grow bigger; things were getting better for him.
So the day finally, finally came where they talked with us about planning to bring him home! Woo Hoo! Uh oh, you mean just the two of us? No doctors or nurses? What do we do when….how do we…when do we…. They just smiled and let us know we would attend a class to answer all those questions. Whew! I thought I was going to soon have a very large phone bill! We were also told that we needed to get a heart and respiratory monitor before he could be released. Oh great, where do we get that at? How much is it? But were just happy to finally get to take him home that we rushed all over the German city we lived at to find one. Cool, found one, now the price. Crap, how are we going to pay for it, it was expensive! Another prayed answered, my military base found out and I was given a grant to pay for it!
Okay, we got the monitor and completed the classes. The big day was approaching and we needed to prepare the house. We had the crib and play pen, went out and got the Playtex bottles with plastic bags with accessories. Stocked up on formula and all the other related items a baby needs. Hard time finding diapers for preemies. Got the smallest available and modified them. I think we were finally ready, so we made the last trip down to the hospital to pick our son up and bring him HOME!!!!!!