Last April, when I was 6 months pregnant, my husband and I decided to take one last vacation before our baby came. We are both school teachers in Baltimore, so Spring Break was the perfect time to head for the Outer Banks of North Carolina before we became a family of three.
Unfortunately, not long after we arrived in Nags Head, I developed Preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome. I was transported by ambulance to Sentara Norfolk General in Norfolk, Virginia, which was the closest hospital with access to a Level 4 NICU.
Christopher was determined to come into this world. He joined us on April 19, over 3 months early, and very far from home.
Christopher was whisked away from us and taken to the NICU at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD), located next door. He weighed just 740 grams, or 1 pound, 10 ounces. He quickly became very, very sick. Within a week of being born, Christopher developed severe lung disease and pulmonary hypertension, which required that be put on a jet ventilator that breathed for him, along with nitric oxide and too many medicines to even list. It was touch and go, and every moment seemed to bring worse news.
After I was discharged, my husband and I moved into the Ronald McDonald House across the street from CHKD, and spent every moment we could with Baby Christopher as he fought for his life. Very slowly, Christopher began to show some improvement and began to wean from his nitric and his drips.
On May 28, 39 days after he was born, I was able to hold Christopher for the first time. There finally seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel. On June 5, the breathing tube was removed, and on June 30, when he was almost 2 ½ months old, Christopher took his first bottle by mouth.
Meanwhile, through all this time, my husband and I were trying to make Norfolk our temporary home away from home. We both took a leave of absence from school for the rest of the year, hoping that Christopher would be home by his due date of July 24, which would still give us time to be a family in Baltimore before returning to school in the fall. Against all the odds, Christopher seemed on target to leave on or soon after his due date. Bottle feeds were progressing, and we started making tentative plans for our return home.
But then on July 16, the bad news started again….we were told Baby Christopher had a broken arm. The next day, Christopher took a terrible turn. He had developed Necrotizing Entercolitis, also known as NEC, a disease of the digestive system that parents of preemies live in fear of. There was no way he would be home by his due date. Now we were again praying Christopher would live. He went to the OR for emergency surgery and survived, but he needed an ostomy to give his intestines time to heal. Then, two weeks later, we were told Christopher needed emergency laser surgery on his eyes to save his vision….he had developed advanced Retinopathy of Prematurity. So Christopher had his second surgery in two weeks.
Now it is August, and my husband and I need to develop a plan to return to work. The easiest plan would be to have Christopher transferred to Johns Hopkins’ NICU, which is close to our Baltimore home. Unfortunately, our insurance will not pay for the transportation, which would cost about $16,000. My husband and I are planning to split the week and each take 2 days off from work, travelling back and forth from Baltimore to Norfolk. Our schools are willing to support this schedule, but it is certainly not ideal for anyone. We plan to continue this schedule until Christopher can come home, which is a minimum of two months, if all goes well.
We would love to be able to go back home and return to some asemblance of normalcy. Even though our baby would still be hospitalized, at least we could return to our own house and a regular work schedule.
Any donation you are willing to provide will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for helping us Bring Chris Home!
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