Our Lady's Hospital For Sick Children in Dublin is on our usual route into Dublin from Naas. I've never had any cause to go there apart from some minor trips to casualty with toddlers and minor investigations for Miriam and Isabelle, all of which showed nothing to worry about. Driving past on occasion I'd remark to John that it was a hidden world in there and those of us lucky enough not to be part of that world could but imagine the tears, bedside vigils, joys and sorrows the walls of that hospital were witness to. I'd say a little prayer for those families, then forget about it as we cursed the next red light or driver illegally 'parked' in a yellow box.
Last Wednesday the Cardiologist ( I'm not going to mention names of any doctors or nurses in this blog, they're entitled to their privacy) telephoned me to see could we come up to the children's hospital on Friday. He wanted to do an echo-cardiograph on the baby which would give him clearer pictures than the ultrasound. We'd also get to meet some of the team who will be caring for Louise when she's transferred there after delivery and have a look at the intensive care unit and special care wards. This hopefully would take away some of the fear and apprehension. The fear and apprehension I have to add was totally one sided as John is already very familiar with that unit in Crumlin, having spent many's a long sleepless shift working there as Senior House Officer on one of his rotations. I knew he'd liked working there and he had told me over and over not to be worrying about the machines..they look much more scary than they actually are, and anyway, wouldn't it be worse if we DIDN'T have access to them!
So Friday came, we brought Rebecca with us as she had a half day from school. Parking around the hospital leaves a bit to be desired and the poor local residents basically have to put up with strangers parking for hours on end outside their homes! No yellow lines, pay machines or clamping warnings at least make it less hostile. It was a beautiful sunny spring ( well, we Irish have to live in hope!) afternoon and I was looking forward to this visit. My only concern was that maybe the baby's heart had deteriorated since the last scan. And I'd built my fear of the ICU machines out of all proportion! Three flights of stairs lead to the cardiac unit and as I went up them, whether from breathlessness caused by late pregnancy or apprehension or both, I suddenly felt overwhelmed by some sort of panic..this is where my little baby would be going..without me!! I knew the ward was called St Peter's and when I saw the sign on one of the doors 'St Peter's Ward' I started crying. (You know, I never used to be someone who cried in public! ) I'm glad I did as otherwise I'd probably have started crying as soon as the doctor said Hello and would have looked like a right fool!!
Well Thank God, the ECHO showed that apart from the major malformation the baby's heart is is a good state and nothing new showed up. The doctor was very happy and confident that Louise will be fit for surgery. He's very approachable and we (well,I) were able to ask any questions. As a heart transplant is likely to be required in the future, we asked him about the possibility of storing the baby's cord blood stem cells. He thought we should definitely look into that possibility and decide before delivery. The two downsides of that though are firstly he thinks the research more likely to come up with promising results is from bone marrow and secondly the cost..€10,000 !! I sincerely doubt whether VHI will be willing to pay that! As for Louise's general health, he did warn us that a lot of things are still hanging in the air until she's born and they can have a good look at her so breathing easily just yet is probably a bit premature. We'll see a neurologist after delivery also, to assess the baby's Dandy-Walker.
Louise's designated specialist nurse met with us then and my apprehension about the baby coming to Crumlin alone dissipated. She told me not to be in a rush over from Holles St as the baby would be seeing doctors and having scans, tests etc, and also she wouldn't be getting milk anyway for a day or two so I'd be better to get a night's sleep under my belt. And anyway, John can come with the baby. This lovely, approachable and very human nurse spent a long time with us explaining everything which we could possibly want to know. She included Rebecca all the time. A few times when my eyes filled up, her's did too, which I thought was very encouraging, this isn't just a job to fill the hours and collect the pay cheque. Once we told her the baby's name she referred to her as Louise from then on. Happily, the first thing she said was that the rest of the children would definitely be allowed to meet the baby and would not be left out of the loop. I was thrilled at this as I knew Miriam (12) was very worried about that possibility. Grandparents will get a look in but basically everyone else will have to wait! (Sorry!) Apart from ICU each baby has their own little room and there's a Mother's area for rooming in. Daddy can sleep in with the baby on a mattress if he likes. The little rooms are mainly windows and she told us of one Dad who woke up one morning forgetting where he was and had foolishly worn only boxer shorts..the staff were having a giggle at his expense!! I'll have to make sure John dresses modestly if he stays over any night!! We saw some of the beautiful little babies and now I'm filled with hope and optimism (for the moment).
We had a peep into ICU and the Nurse told us there's nothing available anywhere in the world that isn't available here, it's world class care. We are truly blessed and lucky to live in a country where all this is available..my mind drifted to the poor people of Haiti, God Help Them!!
Our next appointment is in a few weeks with the Maternity Hospital so there probably won't be any need to update till then. In the meantime, please continue all your prayers, we really do appreciate them. And thank you from our hearts to the teenager who went without food or water for 22 hours to offer for Louise!! And to his family who also fasted. That is real generosity.