In the waiting room outside the OR, my attention shifted back and forth from the stream of bubbles blowing up through a giant fish tank filled with magnified koi and the local news on the mounted television warning Houston of the potential disaster that lay before us. Turned out that hurricane lurking out in the gulf was the real deal and Hurricane Harvey was set to make landfall on Tuesday, August 29th. It’s preceding rains however, were already upon us.
“It’s coming down pretty hard already.” Chris reported. He had turned around and come back to the hospital for the emergency exploratory surgery at midnight that Friday. We were in the the same place we had been one week earlier, sitting in a waiting room terrified and clueless as doctors tried to save our son. In between texts from my mother and flash flood alerts popping up on my phone, I googled what Dr. L and Dr. H had suspected was happening to Miles.
After a couple of hours, a new doctor approached us.
“Hello, I’m Dr. K. I operated on Miles’ tonight.” He shook our hands and began by confirming his colleagues suspicions, it was NEC. He said he was visual and hoped we were too, because he wanted to draw us a picture so that we fully understood what was going on with Miles now.
In a nutshell, that brain hemorrhage Miles had suffered on ECMO caused a clot that passed through his stomach and ruptured in his gut, making his intestines look like a shrapnel explosion (which the doctor illustrated very well). The breastmilk that he received that day leaked in his gut and caused dangerous gases and infections to form. If this was not an isolated incident, meaning if there were more clots coming down his little pipes from his brain, his life was in serious danger. 50/50. A coin toss. Again.
This kid just couldn’t catch a break.
They scheduled surgery to remove the portion of his intestines on Sunday morning. He would be monitored closely the following days after to see if any other clots would pass and cause a need for more intestines to be removed. We would just have to wait and see. Again.
After a long night of hearing the early rains of Hurricane Harvey pound against the Ronald McDonald House windows, Chris and I began to realize that we were going to have to make some serious decisions and we were going to have to make them fast. Some areas of Houston had already began to flood and Harvey had not even made land fall.
Our two old dogs, one blind, could not be left alone nor did we want to give any family or friends that had to evacuate the added stress of caring for them. Plus our fur babies were our family and we wanted to make sure they were safe. In addition, our home set less than a mile from one of Houston’s most notorious bayous and if predictions were correct, our home was in a potential flood area. In the end, we decided to split up; Chris would stay at our home and ride out the storm and I would stay at the hospital with Miles.
I WILL COME BACK TO HOUSTON. YOU AREN’T GOING THROUGH THIS ALONE.
My mother texted early that Saturday morning. She lives two hours away and the thought of my sixty year old mother driving toward a hurricane was insane. It was too late and it was out of our hands. NO WAY, I texted back.
We left the NICU and headed toward home quickly for some supplies; a weeks worth of clothes and toiletries, some cash, bottled water and snacks. As we were leaving, we saw a notice on the door that stated the Ronald McDonald House rooms were going to be used by doctors and nurses staying overnight during the hurricane and that families of NICU patients were welcome to sleep in the lobby during the storm. I added bedding to my supplies list.
At 4:00 pm Saturday evening, we pulled up to the drop off area in front of the hospital. The sky was dark and the palm trees around us swayed. Rain was hammering down. I unloaded my bags to the sidewalk. It looked like I was going camping. Chris and I hugged and cried a little. We had no idea how long this storm would keep us all apart. Even if our home didn’t flood, it was possible that Chris would be marooned there, unable to get out to surrounding streets for days or even weeks. But there was nothing we could do. I turned and walked inside and he drove away, alone.
Would our baby survive this one? Would the hospital flood? Would the doctors even be able to get to the hospital for Miles’ surgery the next day? Would our family and friends be alright? What if Chris had to evacuate…where would he go? The fear of the unknown kept me awake for most of the night and in the morning I awoke to an ominous text from Chris.
BABE, IT’S BAD. REALLY BAD.