Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chronic Babies

Almost sounds like a juxtaposition... "Chronic Babies." Babies shouldn't be old enough to have a chronic condition already!

But that's what we call our babies in the NICU that were born 3-4 months early (about 24-26 weeks gestation) and continue to have medical problems that prevent them from going home as they approach their due date. The most common problem they deal with is their premature lungs. Premature babies are born without all of the branches of their lungs fully developed, and the lungs do not grow as well once they are out of the womb, leaving the baby without enough surface area to transfer oxygen to their body. They are also born without Surfactant, a molecule that keeps the lungs open when they breathe out, so their body doesn't have to reopen our lungs every time they inhale (This is so much work that their bodies would just shut down.) The only way these extremely premature babies survive is by giving their mom's steroids before the baby is born (which helps the baby make surfactant) and by giving the baby surfactant directly into their lungs when they are born.

Of course no medical breakthrough is as good as the babies developing fully in mom's belly. These babies usually need extra oxygen (via nasal canula of bubble CPAP) for months, and often even after they go home.

And that is why I am so exhausted this week! I have been taking care of babies with Chronic Lung Disease this week, and they are a handful!

They are not happy about having something on their face giving them oxygen, so they will knock it off, and their oxygen saturation will decrease to 50% (usually when I am busy taking care of another baby), so I will have to quickly save the baby (who doesn't want to be saved based on the fight she puts up) and go back to what I was doing.

These babies as a general rule don't like to be touched at all, because throughout their little lives, they have associated touch with painful medical procedures. :( This makes even taking a temperature or changing a diaper a struggle, because the baby will fight (and they are strong) and cry (loudly). After I finish my cares on one of these babies.. I wrap them up nicely and give them a pacifier and calm them as much as I can before moving on.

In the Pod I was working in this week, 3 out of the 6 bed spaces had these chronic babies. So all day we heard the beeping of the monitors when the oxygen saturation dipped... on 3 different babies. I went to sleep last night hearing those beeps in my head. Beeeep beeeep beeeep. Lol.

At the end of the day though, I enjoy taking care of these babies. You really get to know the babies. I love it when (after nothing at all will calm them down) I pick them up and they cuddle into me, and instantly settle down. That melts my heart every time.

1 comment:

Ellen said...

Krystal, I read your blog to David and Dad during breakfast. Love hearing about what goes on in the NICU. How wonderful that you have the skills and will to help these precious little babies develop. Love your last sentence! Awww . . .