I remember and I also don’t remember much from when we were first told that our son had suffered a bleed in the brain. I reflect on it often when thinking about where Thomas is now from his very first beginnings that started with the brain hemorrhage. I was home alone, in Thomas’ bedroom when I took the call. My husband was at work. I called him immediately. After I called him, I cried.
I remember being in shock. Holding back tears. Confusion. I prepared for the reality that Thomas would die, or remain in a severe comatose like state. The specialists were thrown into fairly unknown territory needing to call on Starship for advise. Thomas was only 10 days old when I was first introduced to epilepsy when seizures became as regular as every few minutes.
I learnt how to do CARES (temperature check, nappy change, wipe nose, mouth and eyes) through the incubator holes. The sounds of the many different monitors. All of which terrified me. I watched my son, motionless. Intubated because the medications slowed his breathing. Pumping milk became a regular slot in the day that led to me storing unused milk because Thomas was no longer tolerating feeds. I remember feeling a mix of hope and a sense of loss as to whether the milk would ever be needed again.
Nurses became friends. Friends kept a distance. Doctors rounds were a regular event each day, not to be missed.
I visited Google regularly in desperation for information on anything related to brain injuries, specifically a Grade iii hemorrhage. Not much, it turned out at the time.
I remember seeing quite a few babies come and go through the NICU and thinking, will we be able to leave with our son one day?
When Thomas started to move a limb and open his eyes. I remember these moments too. I felt like I was witnessing a real miracle. That the seizure medications worked and the seizures ceased.
Thomas was very drowsy for quite some time and he would need time to heal and adjust. That from now on, he was experiencing his world, post injury, for the first time. Celebrating that he could pee again. Tolerate feeds. Move out of the intensive unit. Able to regulate his temperature. Learn to breastfeed. I remember thinking how amazing it is that he would wake and cry. That he could communicate by crying. After so much silence, it was lovely to hear him cry!
Thomas came home after 7 weeks in the NICU. He was born 6 weeks early. We were told he would come home on a feeding tube. Instead, he came home fully breastfed and this continued up until 13 months old. We were told that Thomas might have cerebral palsy and this I had accepted. I was just so thankful that he was still with us.
Thomas is nearing 3 years old and gearing up for kindergarten. Thomas has come a long way since then. He has had a lot of challenges, which still continue every day. But, he is a mostly happy boy who gives and receives love. He is able to communicate in his own way the basic needs like being tired, hungry, thirsty, bored, scared, happy, angry and excited. He smiles, giggles and gives kisses. He comprehends words and follows instructions. He finds ways to move around on his back using his legs and feet. He has a cheeky personality and he loves attention. He loves music and playing.
If there is one thing that every parent/caregiver/family member/friend should know about brain injuries in babies is that every brain injury is different regardless of the grade (1-4) and it’s resulting prognosis. It takes time, a lot of time. Time to grieve, to find one’s way through acceptance and that the grieving cycle runs on repeat every time there is a new diagnosis, event or trigger. It can be very lonely at times simply because it is not a common event and when it does happen, you realize that you may or may not know anything about it or anyone who can walk/talk you through it. Again, there is no way to know how things will unfold. We were told again and again to ‘wait and see’. That was pretty much it, besides having Home Care nurses on board, a developmental therapist and to expect seizures. Having a really understanding GP helped get us fast tracked through certain scenarios. There are plenty of Facebook support groups that are private. There are a lot of blogs out there too. Just find the ones that you can relate to.
It takes courage to reach out when you so desperately want others to reach you. 💕