Monthly Archives: October 2013

Grant Comes Home!

So while I was having a fun day with Hudson at the NC Transportation Museum, Grant was getting ready to be discharged from the NICU: he got a circumcision and a hearing test and the doctors were happy with his jaundice levels.  Since Hudson wasn’t allowed in the NICU, I had my mom meet us at the hospital to entertain Hudson in the waiting area while we got Grant ready to go home.  During the pregnancy, Bekah and I spent a lot of time talking to Hudson about the babies and their names.  Hudson, in all his 2 year old glory, couldn’t pronounce their names.  Instead he would refer to them as “Nolit and Cramp”.  HILARIOUS.  So Hudson knew he would be a big brother, he just didn’t completely understand the concept.  So I took Hudson with me to the parking garage to get the van and I told him, “Your brother Grant is coming home!” and he just replied with an “Ok.”  We pulled up to the front of the hospital, where Bekah was waiting with one of the NICU Nurses who helped her out.  I told Hudson to stay in the van while I got out to help with all our stuff.  I put some bags into the back and then picked up Grant’s carrier and popped it into place right across from Hudson.  Hudson curiously leaned over and unleashed this gem: “What’s THAT?!”  

After I cracked up I told him it was his brother Grant, and he gave me this whatchu talkin bout willis look.  And we were off.  It was bittersweet, because I remember making this same drive when Hudson was ready to come home as a baby and I was just mortified of how he was doing in the back.  This time around i was a pro, so I was happy to have Grant ready to come home.  Sad thing was, I’d be leaving Nolan behind…and things would get more challenging with one baby at home and one baby in the hospital.  We got home to get settled in and Hudson was still unsure of this whole “baby” thing:

GrantComesHome

 

But eventually over time he came around to be a great big brother:

HuddyAndCrampy

 

Biggest challenge to having Grant home?  Lack of sleep…oh yeah…I forgot that babies don’t sleep.  So not only were we sleep deprived, we’d either take turns going to the Hospital, or would work finding people to watch the two boys while we went to see Nolan together.  Grant is a sweet, chill baby, though, and we love him to death.  It was good to get him out of NICU and home where he belongs.

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Don’t Forget the Other Kid

If you have other kids, a major challenge when having an heart baby is being as much of an all-inclusive parent as possible.  In our case, the twins were both in the NICU and our oldest was with a variety of friends and family early on.  What made things crazy was after a few days, Bekah was discharged from the hospital, but obviously our twins were going to stay there.  This made things really difficult because we wanted to be at the hospital, and now we’d have to drive 30+ minutes to be there.

It was my wife’s awesome idea to go do something fun with Hudson since we had both been M.I.A. for the whole week.  At first I was so-so about the idea since I didn’t want to miss anything with the twins while they were in the NICU, but I didn’t want Hudson to feel left out.  As the older brother, he had a big job to do, but he definitely needed some attention too.  So the plan was for Bekah to head down to the NICU for the day and I would do some fun stuff with Hudson before going to the NICU later in the day.  That sounded like a good plan to me, but I couldn’t decide where to take Hudson.  I did some scouring on the interwebz and found the NC Transportation Museum, which is about an hour from us and featured a lot of trains, which is one of Hudson’s obsessions.  Even better, I found out you can ride one of the trains with a visit from Santa!  So I ordered tickets for the both of us and the next day woke Hudson up and told him I was taking him somewhere special, but that it was a surprise.  As most 2 year olds would be, he was super-excited.

We hit the road with enough time to get there for our scheduled train ride.  The whole way Hudson kept asking where we were going and I kept telling him it was a surprise, which kept exciting him.  I have to tell you, it was a welcome distraction from everything that had been going on and I was really happy to spend time with Hudson.  As we got closer to the museum, we got off the exit and went over a few train tracks before pulling into the museum grounds.  Hudson was happy about all the train tracks and then said, “Daddy, I wish I could see a train.”  I parked the car, turned around in my seat and said, “Well guess what buddy…you’re going to ride on a train!”  And his reaction was PRICELESS.  He gasped loudly and had this HUGE smile on his face.  I’ll never forget it.  Then I told him “Oh yeah, and you’ll be riding a train with Santa!” and he went NUTS.

We got out and picked up our tickets and looked at some of the trains on the grounds before our train arrived.  Hudson was about to explode:

HUDtrain1

 

The conductor helped us aboard and we found a seat before our tickets were punched.  As the train started, Hudson was the happiest I’ve ever seen him.

HUDtrain2

 

Finally they announced Santa was on his way, and he arrived to the train in this old-school police car.  Hudson got a candy cane from Santa’s elves and got to meet Mrs. Claus before the big man himself showed up.

HUDtrain3

He asked Hudson what he wanted for Christmas…Hudson, being Hudson, clammed up and said nothing lol.  I started to talk to Santa and Mrs. Claus about Hudson’s new brothers, and finally Hudson opened up and chatted a bit.  Santa gave Hudson an orange, which is apparently a tradition from the depression era: kids would see Santa on a train and he would give them a candy cane and an orange.  We spent the next few minutes riding the train and then exploring the museum.  Then we went to Steak n Shake for a yummy lunch before heading back on our way.  While I was there, I got some good news: Grant was going to be going home!  So instead of heading back to the house, I was headed to the hospital so Hudson can meet one of his brothers for the FIRST time!

I gotta tell you, it was an awesome day.  Hudson’s joy brought me joy and it was good to get into the Christmas spirit…especially since the thought of Christmas barely crossed my mind that week.  And to be honest with you, I think I got more out of that little trip than Hudson did.  It was refreshing and I just really needed it.  It’s always going to be a challenge to balance the needs of a heart baby with those of your other kids.  The only advice you can offer is just try your best.  You’re going to be exhausted, you’re going to be emotional, you’re going to be frustrated.  But never forget the other kids: take time out to do special things with them and make them feel special too.

 

What is the Norwood Procedure?

NorwoodSano

 

 

The Norwood Procedure is the first surgery for all HLHS babies and usually occurs sometime during the first week of birth.  It is the most complex and highest-risk procedure that an HLHS baby will go through.  Since the heart’s left side does not pump well, the heart is rebuilt so the right side of the heart becomes the main pumping chamber.

The blood vessel leaving the right side of the heart called the pulmonary artery is divided. The far end (the end closest to the lungs) is sewn shut. The near end (the end closest to the heart is sewn into the aorta, which is the large blood vessel leaving the left side of the heart. A patch is sewn in this area to make the “new aorta” or neo-aorta bigger and stronger. Now all the blood leaving the heart goes from the right side of the heart through the pulmonary valve and out to the body through the new aorta.  The wall between the heart’s two upper chambers is removed. This allows red blood coming back from the lungs to flow from the left upper chamber to the right upper chamber. The blood then goes to the right lower chamber and out to the body.

After the Norwood, the right ventricle pumps blood to both the lungs and the body. The Norwood procedure re-routes the blood flow around some of the defective areas of the heart by creating new pathways for blood circulation to and from the lungs.  Nolan will be having a variant of this procedure called the Norwood-Sano, which means that a Sano shunt is being utilized.  The Sano Modification of the Norwood involves the placement of a conduit (light blue tube in the picture above) between the pulmonary artery and the right ventricle.

The recovery period for the Norwood procedure averages 3 to 4 weeks, but please don’t be surprised if it’s longer (you’ll see).  I can’t stress enough how serious of a procedure the Norwood is: it’s not a simple 1-hour fix, and it’s only the first of 3 surgeries an HLHS baby will need.

For more info, read: http://www.mottchildren.org/medical-services/hypoplastic-left-heart-syndrome-norwood-operation

Let’s Discuss Surgery

After a couple days of both boys being in the NICU, we were told that we were going to speak with the surgeon.  Well we already did that, right?  Well yeah, we did meet Dr. Peeler, but this time we’d meet the other surgeon, Dr. Maxey.  My first thought was “Ok, what can he tell us that we don’t already know?”  but we agreed.  Dr. Maxey chose to meet us in the NICU so we could be close to our kids…definitely a nice first impression.  He was very kind and personable and pulled up a chair and said, “I’ve cleared up my schedule to be sure I give you all the time you need to have your questions answered.”  WOW!  That’s pretty special, right?

So Dr. Maxey gave a quick rundown of what HLHS was, which we were pretty good with, and then began to describe the initial surgery, which was called the Norwood Procedure.  He was very, VERY clear that the Norwood Procedure is a very serious open-heart surgery.  It is intricate and challenging and a baby’s heart is roughly the size of a quarter.  A QUARTER.  How the heck do they do surgery on that?!  Then he said something that absolutely wrecked me: nationally about 20% of kids (1 in 5) do not make it through the Norwood Procedure.  Oh my God.  BUT, he said, he and Dr. Peeler have a ton of experience on the Norwood and do each Norwood Procedure together.  He said their rate of success is 97%.  Whew, that’s much better.  But…what if Nolan ends up as that tiny 3%?  How would I cope?  What would I do?  Is that even fair?

Dr. Maxey was such a nice guy.  He did a great job of reassuring us we were in the best place for Nolan, but still reminded us that this surgery was very serious and could take upwards of 6 hours or more.  He said sometimes they won’t be able to close the chest post-surgery due to swelling and that’s ok.  He said he had time and asked us if we had any questions.  I’m not sure if I even asked him any…honestly I was nervous for my son and just as much nervous for myself because I realized I’d never been so anxious in my life.   Surgery was set for the morning of December 17th…7 days after Nolan was born.

I enjoyed meeting Dr. Maxey: he does a great job of being informative and reassuring.  He and Dr. Peeler make a great team.

Maxey_Thomasb

Add Jaundice to the Menu

NolanBiliLight

One day I came down to the NICU to see poor Nolan in his little bed, with this bright light shining on him and this weird mask covering his eyes.  The nurse said Nolan had some jaundice, which is typical of babies who are born a little early, and the light was called a Bili Light, which was a treatment to help the jaundice along.  The light had to stay on, and so did the mask, until they were happy with his tests.  Grant had some jaundice too, but not as much as Nolan, because he used the Bili Blanket, which was this funky light blanket that would be the envy of EDM fans worldwide.  And he only needed it for like a day.  Nolan had his for several days.  It was pretty depressing because the mask meant you wouldn’t see his little eyes and it almost made him less human, if that makes sense.  

Day after day, we’d come to the NICU and see Nolan under that light.  Occasionally they’d give us a short break to hold him or just love on him a little bit, but mostly it was hands-off, talking-only stuff.  It sucked.  I knew he needed it, but it felt like he was making zero progress.  I mean heck, isn’t it enough he had a heart defect?  Now he has to be all covered up, just laying there to be poked and prodded.  It made me feel awful for him.  For possibly one of the first times (and definitely not the last), I wanted so badly just to be able to fix him.  I would’ve done anything.  Guys are supposed to want to fix things, and here I was helpless.  Meanwhile, Grant was just a few feet away and he was able to wear clothes and be held.  While Nolan only had our voice…

 

Nom Nom Nom…for Dad

NolanNicuBottle1

Yes that’s my tiny Nolan eating from a bottle I was giving him while in the NICU.  This will always be an awesome moment for me and I’ll tell you why.  Nolan wasn’t the best at bottle-feeding after birth.  The nurses would give him about 15-20 minutes to complete a feed.  If he couldn’t finish his feed on several occasions, they’d have to insert an NG (Nasogastric) Tube, which is a tube that goes in the nose and to the stomach for feeds.  As you can see in the photos, he had an NG tube in by the time these were taken.  They WANTED him to bottle feed, to maintain his sucking reflex, but they also didn’t want to take too long to feed.  One nurse told me that bottle feeding for little ones is the equivalent of you and I doing a pretty strenuous gym workout.  That burns a lot of calories for Nolan and he would need every single calorie for surgery, since he was so small.

It got to the point where Nolan, in his infinite stubbornness (recurring theme alert), wouldn’t drink for the nurses.  None of them.  Sometimes, though, he would eat pretty well for me.  And just me.  I was definitely feeling the Dad love there!  So the nurses would let me hold him, which was priceless, and I would try to feed this itty bitty guy.  The trick was to hold the edges of his ears just gently, which would supposedly help trigger his sucking reflex (who knew?) and use a couple fingers just under his chin.  At first I was nervous because I didn’t want to do anything to hurt him or make him work too hard, but even the nurses were amazed: he was drinking for me!  I tried to feed him as much as I possibly could because I absolutely loved that bonding time.  I held him and he’d drink quietly and it seemed like all the problems would go away.  It was a sweet time to be with my boy.  And to be brutally honest, I wanted those moments with him as much as possible, because I knew what was looming and who knew how many chances I would get…

My bond with baby Nolan became a pretty awesome thing: he could be having a rough day with his monitor going all bonkers, and I’d walk in and talk to him and everything would calm right down.  So he knew me…we bonded…and it was awesome.

NolanNicuBottle2

Oxygen Saturation

SatMonitor

 

If you have a CHD baby, whether it’s HLHS or something else, you’re going to become really, REALLY familiar with an Oxygen Saturation monitor, aka O2 Sats, aka Sats, aka Pulse Ox.  Oxygen saturation is a measure of how much oxygen the blood is carrying.  If you hooked up a healthy adult or child to a sat reader, it will show the oxygen saturation as at or very near 100%.  With Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, this will not be the case.  When Nolan was in NICU, I didn’t know anything about all the numbers on the monitor he was hooked up to.  The nurse told me all about it: blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen saturation.  Sat rates are really important for heart babies, obviously: if they get too low, their breathing gets labored and their color can start to change.  I remember in NICU that Nolan’s monitor was set to go off once his sats were below 75.  And man did that thing go off…it’s an all-too-familiar sound to heart parents: boong…boong…boong…boong….BINGBINGBINGBING.  And then you freak, and maybe the nurses come a little quicker, and typically everything is fine.  The sat monitor used to make me nuts until one of Nolan’s doctors finally told me that the sat reader isn’t always an exact science: it may show low sats but that doesn’t always mean low sats: you have to look at his breathing and color.  If it’s reading his sats at 60% but he’s breathing normally and his color is good, then it’s ok.  Just give it a minute and we’ll see.  Sometimes, though, it is very serious.

So here’s another reason why reading sats is important: IT SAVES LIVES.  How?  It can really catch CHDs in undiagnosed babies before they leave the hospital.  Imagine this: not every family finds out their baby has a CHD during the pregnancy phase.  That’s terrifying.  Even worse, some families never find out their child has a CHD and the baby dies shortly after birth or in one of those terrible sports-related deaths you read about in the paper.  That’s even worse.  Not every hospital is equipped with a NICU, much less a staff that can adequately handle a CHD.  Many kids are transported to hospitals hours away…so we’re lucky to have one of the best right here.  Even so, a great way to find out about a potential CHD and work on getting help is through pulse ox screening for EVERY baby.  This is a $5 test that takes like 5 minutes.  That’s it.  The crazy thing is, not every state requires mandatory pulse ox screening for every baby born prior to discharge.  That’s changing, though, and it’s AWESOME.  Think about how many lives can be saved with mandatory pulse ox screening across the country?  I can’t imagine what it would be like to find out just after birth about a CHD, but I think it’s worse to never know and then lose your loved one because of it.

So how does mandatory pulse ox screening become a reality?  With you!  Go to this site: http://pulseoxadvocacy.com/current-legislation/ and see if your state has passed a pulse ox screening law.  If not, you can also find out how to contact your local lawmakers.  Be serious about this: contact them.  Saving these lives starts with YOU: so show that you care and do it.  This law passed in NC and I was thrilled thanks to many heart parents who are fighting for their babies and those who are to come.

The First NICU Visit

dry hands

Once Bekah was out of recovery, we were moved up to a room on the maternity floor of the hospital.  It was weird because we were up there with no babies.  Lots of time went by.  We realized how tired we were: I mean we’d been up since 2:30am!  So I fired off some text messages to people, updated my job (it was about 8am by this time), and then we decided we might as well rest.  We both managed to get some sleep before waking up in hopes we’d be able to see our babies.  I finally decided to call the NICU to ask if they could be seen…they said yes.  The unfortunate thing was that I had to go alone, since Bekah wasn’t able to get out of bed yet.  So I walked to the nurse’s station with the all-important question: how do I get to the NICU?  Man, those directions were bonkers: it was like go down 2 floors, take a left, then a right, then a right, then immediate left, then climb a mountain, shoot two free throws, eat 3 hot dogs….ok I’m exaggerating a tiny bit, but it was pretty crazy at first.

I managed to find the NICU Nurse’s Station and I introduced myself.   I was told to fill out a form indicating that I didn’t have the bubonic plague or anything like that, and they gave me a nifty Levine Children’s Hospital lanyard with badge holder to hold my parent badge and a list of NICU phone numbers (really helpful).  I was instructed on NICU procedure: first check in at nurse’s station, then go to family waiting room where I’d have to do a 2-minute hand wash before putting on a yellow plastic gown, then I’d go out another door so I can be buzzed back into the NICU area…THEN I could see my boys.  Now this is very important…if your baby ends up in NICU and you have to do the 2-minute hand wash, be sure you have a good bottle of lotion in your hospital overnight bag.  Seriously.  I’m not even talking ashy knuckles here, but when you hand wash so much at first (you visit, then your family comes so you wash again, then more family comes to see the baby so you wash again and again and again) your hands will BURN.  I know mine did, and it was horrible, I have no shame in saying that cuz it sucked, big time.  I couldn’t even put my hands in my pockets…and God forbid using hand sanitizer…WOOOO BURN.  So yeah, lotion up!  Eventually it gets better: I used Burt’s Bees hand salve.  I know, some of you are like “So unmanly!” but just you wait.

So back to it.  I walked into the NICU and it was sorta like I remembered it: dark and quiet.  I took a step inside and realized that I had seen my twins for such a short amount of time that there was no way I’d be able to know them by sight, so I didn’t know where to go.  Luckily a nurse was there near the door and once I introduced myself she directed me straight ahead, where two little beds with heating elements were about 15 feet apart.  My boys.  I was happy to see them, but it so pained me to see them both there.  First I went to Nolan, again afraid that I didn’t know what to expect.  He was pretty zonked out looking all cute as if there was nothing amiss.  Seriously, if you looked at him, he looked so normal.  Amazing.  His nurse came up and introduced herself and gave me an update: they did an echo on him right after birth, and – SHOCKER – he has HLHS.  So she introduced me to his monitor, which displayed his pulse ox, heart rate, blood pressure, etc.  She said he was doing pretty well but wasn’t doing the best with bottle feeds, which is fairly common in CHD babies.  I got to spend time with the little man and hold his tiny fingers and toes and talk to him.  It was actually pretty soothing there in that quiet place.  I asked if a cardiologist had been by and was told no, but that the nurse was fetching the NICU doctor to speak with me.  While I waited, I walked over to see Grant, who was also happily asleep.  I did notice, though, that he had a little oxygen still going in through his nose and this big (for him) bandage on his chest.  Grant’s nurse came over and introduced herself and said that it looked like Grant’s lung had a buildup of fluid and had a little burst, but it was nothing major and they drained it.  That threw me for a major loop because here I was expecting one medical issue, but with Nolan…and Grant had one too?  The doctor finally came and said something I hear A LOT at the hospital and it pisses me off, “Hello Mr Perez.  Is English a good language?”  My reply, “What if it isn’t?” to which he laughed.  I was not amused.

Luckily for him, though, he was a nice guy and I liked him.  He also confirmed that Nolan has HLHS and that the team at Levine Children’s Hospital is the best around.  He also verified the info on Grant’s lung, saying he would be just fine aside from a tiny bit of jaundice.  I didn’t have any other questions for him aside from asking when I would see a cardiologist and he said he’d check on it.  Otherwise I Just wanted to spend time with the boys.  I was a bit sad, though: I didn’t get to hold them and didn’t know when I could, and I wasn’t happy about the fact they were in the NICU in the first place.  They were getting fantastic care, that’s for sure, but I wanted nothing more right then to have two perfectly healthy babies and be worrying about silly things like fitting them in the car.  And it sounds stupid, but I was overly concerned with making sure I spent equal amounts of time with each boy.  So I’d walk to Nolan and sit on this high rolling chair and just talk to him.  Then I’d go over and do the same for Grant.

It wasn’t until much later that I was able to take Bekah down in a wheelchair to see the boys.  By then it was a pro at getting to the NICU.  And it was really nice to see my wife get to interact better with the boys, even though she couldn’t hold them yet.

A big question hung in the air, though: what would cardiology say?  Will his surgery be tonight?  Tomorrow?  Next week?

About the Ductus Arteriosus (hint: it doesn’t say quack quack)

Ductus

 

When you’re preparing to deliver a HLHS baby, there’s a really good chance you’re going to hear a cardiologist mention the ductus arteriosus, or just ductus for short.  When babies are in the womb, their oxygen is provided by the mother’s lungs and placenta.  So to save energy, blood doesn’t need to be pumped to the lungs, so the ductus arteriosus allows the blood to bypass the lungs and get out to the rest of their little bodies.  Again, this is present in ALL babies.  When your little one is born, though, they need to use their lungs, so this ductus typically closes within the first few hours of life.  For a fully healthy baby, that’s normal and no big deal.  For an HLHS warrior, though, this is pretty important to monitor.  In HLHS babies, the right ventricle has to do double the work, of pumping blood to the lungs AND out to the body.  An open ductus allows it to pump blood to the body, but once that closes up it really diminishes the amount of blood flow to the body, which is very dangerous.

But before you freak out, this is something cardiology looks out for…or at least, they should.  And if they don’t mention it, ASK.  Anyways, if the ductus does look like it’s closing up, they can use medicine called prostaglandins to keep that ductus open until they’re ready for the Norwood Procedure.

Welcome to the World…I’m Your Dad (Here Come the Babies, Part 2)

After receiving my scrubs, I went into the nearest bathroom to change.  It’s hard to change clothes when you’re insanely nervous, and I swear I almost fell over a few times.  The scrub pants went on, but the top they gave me was way too small…it was like Fat Guy in a Little Coat.  So I stepped out and asked for a bigger size, which seemed to bother the nurse, but whatever.  This one fit much better.  I got to sit with my wife for a few minutes while the nurses called the high-risk team and the cardiac team.  Then I was told the time had arrived and that Bekah would be wheeled away.  I walked with a nurse down another hallway: she opened a closet and told me to put my belongings in there, then she guided me to a chair and said sit and wait til I come get you.  So I sat and tried to relax…yeah right.  I think I must’ve been sitting there for 20 minutes, maybe more, and the longer I sat, the more nervous I got.  Thoughts started to jump into my head like: what will Nolan’s birth be like?  I’ve heard about some HLHS babies looking blue when they’re born, will he be blue?  Will he be breathing?  Will he be ok?  Will I ever get the chance to hold him or will I have to wait til after surgery?  And the more I thought on these things, the more of a wreck I became.  I prayed silently, then prayed again…then again.  Finally the nurse came to get me, and on wobbly legs I walked into the operating room for the C-Section, which had already begun.  And oh God, I did not want to look!  Luckily I was spared a view of it all by the bajillions of people in that tiny room!

There was the surgery team, nurses, anethesia, a NICU team, a cardiac team, a respiratory team, and on and on.  They pulled up a seat right by Bekah’s head, which allowed me not to see what was going on.  I thought she was asleep, but then she turned her head to look at me.  I told her I loved her and that she was going great.  Meanwhile the doctors are all casual like “So, did you go to the Christmas party last week?”  It was hilariously surreal.  Every now and then my wife would wince from the pressure they’d be putting on her and I must’ve asked a hundred times if she was in pain.  She was not, but my nervousness didn’t help things.  I knew Nolan would be the first one delivered and as they continued to work, I just kept trying to prepare myself.  FInally at 5am on the nose, I heard the doctor call out “Delivery!” and the nurse called the time and out came a baby.  And that’s when I think I stopped breathing, just holding my breath to see how this was going to go….please God let it be ok.  Nolan came out the typical weird purple like most babies do, and he immediately turned a nice pink and cried his little head off.  He was SO tiny: about 4 pounds 11 ounces.  The nurses ran their quick little tests and no one seemed to be freaking out so I let out my held breath.  A nurse asked if I wanted to come say hello, and I walked over on jelly legs.  Even up close he was still so small…but he was crying and looked so….normal, except that his little chest was heaving up and down pretty hard, almost like it was sucking in.  I pointed at it wordlessly and the nurse said it was ok, no worries.  So I leaned down and I said “Hey Nolan, it’s Dad…you made it, and I love you.”

An eternity went by before the doctor called out “Delivery!” with a time of 5:02.  Wait, only 2 minutes went by?  I swear to this day it felt like 45 minutes or so.  Out came Grant at just under 6 pounds and he was pretty pissed to be out of his comfort zone, and he let us all hear it.  I went to say hello to my cranky-pants son and I told him how much I loved him too.  I went back to Bekah who was asking how they looked and I said “They’re beautiful.” and she asked specifically for Nolan and I said “He looks great, I’m amazed.”  Then an awesome, unexpected thing happened: one of the nurses walked up and said “Would you like to hold Nolan?”  I didn’t think we’d get to hold him…we heard so many stories about heart babies being whisked right to NICU or to surgery, and we didn’t know what to expect.  But I quickly said yes.  The nurse swaddled him up and said I could hold him just for a moment so he doesn’t get too cold, then she handed him to me.  He was SO small…especially compared to the 8 pound 12 ounce behemoth that was Hudson.  I smiled and told him I loved him, then turned to Bekah and said “Look buddy, it’s Mommy!”  The next moment is one that gets me every time and is one that I’ll never ever forget.  My wife was still on the operating table getting closed up, so she could only really move her head, so I held little Nolan up to her, so she could nuzzle up against his cheek.  In that moment, everything was right in the world, everything was love.

Next we got to hold Grant, who was still a little cranky, but calmed down once he got to me.  We were lucky enough to love on him some more, which was awesome.  And I know he responded when he heard Bekah’s voice.  Once I gave Grant back, the only thing left to do was sit and wait…and watch.  I would walk up and talk to them…sometimes I would observe.  Then it got a little weird: one of the nurses put a little oxygen mask on Grant.  I was like “Um, the other one’s the heart baby” and she said, “Oh that one’s fine, this one’s just having a little trouble getting some of the gunk out of his lungs, so we’re helping him out a little.  Nothing to be scared of.”  So then the little NICU incubator box thing came in and the team prepared to put Nolan in there and take him away.  I said my goodbye to him, for now, and was very sad to see him go.  Then another box came in for Grant…they were going to take him down to continue to assist with his breathing, but again they said, no major concerns.

The doctors finished up with Bekah and we were wheeled into post-op, where we waited for a long while before going up to a room.  It was weird, though: two babies born and none were with us.  So I tried to keep the mood light by telling Bekah how terrified I was in that room and how much I tried to avoid looking at the procedure.  We had just been through a whirlwind and I was exhausted, I couldn’t imagine how my wife felt.  Now we were just on countdown until we could see our babies again:

Nolan:
BabyNolan

Grant:
BabyGrant