Our Angel, Jayden
6 March 2006 – 12 May 2006
A tale of a perfect pregnancy, at least, until at almost 28 weeks my carefree world was turned inside out. I awoke one Friday morning with a pain in my upper abdomen. Knowing heartburn was common in pregnancy, I tried to ignore it. By mid-day it was so severe I was having trouble breathing; likened to someone standing on my chest. The words ‘even a little scared’ came to mind. I saw a nearby GP (I was at work), and an hour later I was in a bed at the hospital I wasn’t supposed to be at for another 12 weeks.
I am so grateful to that GP for taking me seriously. He read my blood pressure – way too high, and tested my urine; it contained protein. I didn’t feel sick but he diagnosed me with Pre-eclampsia on the spot. One swollen ankle for the past 2 weeks was all I’d seen of it.
My weekend was spent in hospital on monitors and medications. Somewhere along the line I heard the acronym “HELLP” and realised the nurses were referring to me. I didn’t even know what that meant; although I vaguely remember reading about Pre-eclampsia in a pregnancy book. Early Monday morning I had an ultrasound to check the little life inside me. The sonographer told me Baby was fine, just small for it’s age. I felt quite calm; my baby was wriggling around on the screen, there was a heartbeat and I had no reason to think anything was other than okay.
My state of calmness was very short-lived. My obstetrician arrived with news that the baby was 3 – 4 weeks smaller that it should be due to lack of oxygen and nutrients getting to the placenta. Baby was not growing and needed to be delivered while there was still a strong heartbeat. Induction wasn’t an option; I was to have a Caesarean – in a matter of a few hours.
Now I was frightened. After a transferral to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in town (the small local hospital I was at was not equipped to care for babies born this early) and with my wonderful man right beside me, I was given an epidural along with other needles and medicines. One of them made me feel like death; I suspect it was magnesium to reduce my chance of having seizures, a very real possibility when you have Pre-eclampsia and / or HELLP syndrome. The pain in my upper stomach was eating me whole and I just wanted to go to sleep so I could block everything out.
But I stayed awake and at 3.55pm on March 06 2006, our beautiful boy, Jayden, was born. He was pink and perfect and I’m told he let out a squawk, not that we could hear it! At 705g he was the tiniest baby I had ever laid eyes on. However I was later to learn he didn’t set any world records for his small size!
Reports from proud Daddy came back from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and all was looking fantastic. Jayden was doing so well with his breathing he was on CPAP (air pressure from a machine that holds the lungs open to allow them to fill properly), with no extra oxygen. A shock to the system as it was, the NICU routine became our new life, I was discharged from the hospital 6 days later and went home on blood pressure tablets (which I could stop after a few weeks) and our little man continued to kick on in the same manner he’d come into this world.
Like many other Mums with their tiny infants in the NICU, trips to the hospital, hours peering into the portholes of a humidity-crib with no cuddles, regular stints attached to a breast-pump (meeting some special ladies in the expressing room was a wonderful bonus) and trips home again to an empty room full of baby gear became my days and nights. I would fall into bed exhausted and wondering how soon it would be before our baby could come home with us.
Two weeks after Jayden’s birth, when he’d almost reached that magic 1000g, the fairytale came crashing down around us. He had contracted NEC (Necrotising Enterocolitis), an ugly, devastating intestine infection, which can wreak havoc in premmies under 1000g due to their sheer immaturity and lack of immune system. He needed an operation but was too sick to have it. The doctors left us with the heart-wrenching decision of whether to chance surgery or let him be. How were we supposed to make such a choice?? We thought if he wasn’t going to make it then we would rather have him with us, not let him be alone in an operating theatre where we couldn’t say goodbye. So we had him baptised and sat with our little man and prayed for him to make it through the night. He did. Fourteen long days after that night, he had stabilised enough to risk surgery. Yet again he pulled through, but was not given much hope of surviving through the night. Yet again he did.
Five weeks passed and although holding on, Jayden was still a very sick boy. Another operation was required, but ‘when’ was the decision that no one could make. Then, suddenly, his kidneys began to fail and nothing the doctors tried was working. His heart was slowing down. This time we had to accept Jayden’s little body couldn’t cope anymore and that he was going to die. It was May 12 2006. Tears fall down my cheeks as I write; it’s still so raw. We held our baby and cuddled him and kissed him for a long, long time. Finally we realised we were just being selfish and asked for his ventilator tube to be removed. As we saw his whole face for the first time, finally unmasked from all the tape, Jayden took his last breath. He didn’t struggle. One of the nurses, Melissa, said that meant he wasn’t scared and was ready to go. At a time when nothing could possibly comfort me, those words came the closest. I will always remember them. Ironically, or rather, symbolically, Melissa had been with us in the operating theatre when Jayden was born 67 days earlier.
I would like to make a special mention, not only to Melissa, but also to all of the staff in the NICU at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. There are no words to describe the absolute dedication, love and concern they gave to our baby boy – and to Rod and I. Along with our family and friends, the support we received during what must be the toughest time I have ever been through, will remain in our hearts forever.
Some may consider Jayden just another statistic of Pre-eclampsia and HELLP. But in only nine weeks he gave us a love and happiness we never thought possible. He taught us the value hope, courage and patience. Perhaps most importantly, Jayden taught us to live for today and not take anything for granted – a lesson some adults may never learn in their lifetime.
By Meagan Brunsdon & Rod Thomson
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