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Weary & Burdened Ep. 007: One Month-A-Versary, Heart Surgery and Something Called Fungal Balls

As you live your life, do you ever think, these are going to be the things I remember? I mean, the large events are usually memorable and impactful but all the little day-to-day stuff, it typically just slides from memory. Not leaving any indication it occurred.

That’s the scary thing about memory. You don’t know what’s going to stick or be easily recollected. I was cognizant of this while the days passed in the NICU and that’s partially why I kept a journal. Yet, I didn’t write down every single thing that happened. There was no video camera following me around, documenting all the goings on.

I don’t remember everything. I wasn’t blessed with that kind of memory. I didn’t think to myself, “Okay, Michelle, take a mental note.” But I can vividly recollect one major milestone, one medical event and one funny story from the end of November 2011. I will share them with you here.

On November 28th at 7:02 pm David was officially one month old! Hard to believe we'd been in the hospital that long. It was amazing to see how well he progressed in that month. His daily weight measurement on his month birthday said he was 541 grams. Onwards and upwards! Grow, baby grow. David didn’t look any bigger but he looked older. I think because of his skin. It wasn’t so moist and translucent looking. It looked sturdier, even though it was paper thin.

To mark the occasion I took a photo. Plus, I was given a size one blood pressure cuff which was David's size. It was slightly big on him. To get an idea of how small the cuff was, extend your index finger and examine it. The cuff fit around my index finger perfectly. Crazy hey?

David’s month-a-versary wasn’t an exciting day but a great day nonetheless. Gotta love milestones!!!

The following day, the doctors had given David a renal ultrasound to check if he had fungal balls in his abdomen. During surgery they removed a piece of bowel and sent it for testing and it came back saying there was fungus on it. I was warned this would be a possibility before surgery. If the fungus was systemic then the PDA ligation planned for the near future would be postponed. Fungal balls indicated whether the fungus was isolated to the gut or had spread to the rest of his body. His blood and urine showed no fungus so we waited for the ultrasound results.

I went to the pump room and was explaining fungal balls and the chance that David may have them. One of the moms looked at me and asked, "David has jungle balls?” Sweet mother. All the moms present were in hysterics. The story quickly spread so "jungle balls," became common vernacular around the NICU. Between jungle balls and the leaf debacle, I got about 20 zingers a day. Good times!

I have a feeling jungle balls will go down in BC NICU history as the most inappropriate, overused, made-up medical term, EVER!

That same afternoon the cardiac surgeon came into the West room. Talk about presence! He came over and explained the surgery and his intentions which included performing the ligation of David’s heart right inside the NICU. The doctors went to bat to have the procedure in the OR. They had no chance. The cardiac surgeon won the argument before it started. David wouldn’t leave the comfort of the NICU or his bed because the surgery was to be performed bedside.

After the surgeon's explanation of the surgery to NICU medical staff he asked, "And where's mom?" I laughed and said I was the mom. He thought I was the nurse. That happened everyday! I was often asked to sign for medications by the pharmacist, to help with babies by other parents and which nursing "team" I was on. Even the parking attendant asked if I was staff. I must look nurse-like!?!

After hearing David was fungal ball free and discussing the procedure with the surgeon I was at total peace. The surgeon exuded confidence and made me feel comfortable. The surgery was set for 3pm. The nursing staff prepared his bed, cleared the area, gave him an IV, set up privacy screens and basically got everything all ready to go. I read David Psalm 86 again. By 3pm we were ready. The surgeon was held up with the previous baby so we waited. In that time I was confused for a nurse two more times. Seriously? I wasn’t wearing scrubs people...they were just comfortable clothes!

Then they asked all the parent to leave room 41 of the NICU. They put up a "DO NOT ENTER, SURGERY IN PROGRESS" sign. At 4:15pm anaesthesiology showed up with all of the OR equipment. They literally brought the operating room to David. Total VIP status! I was told I could stay but it wasn’t my thing so I said my goodbyes, "Mommy love you. Good luck baby," and stepped outside.

A guard was placed at the door. It was NICU lockdown. The surgeon came and started at 4:45pm. All was done by 5pm. The surgeon came out and I expected an explanation. Instead I got, "Your good. No problems." That was it and he was gone. A man of few words but hands that worked miracles. I was okay with that.

When I went inside, the NICU had returned to normal. David did awesome. He was drugged but holding his own. What a trooper. He received lots of congratulations. The respiratory therapist walked over to me and said, "He's a tough cookie,” and then leaned over the incubator and whispered, “David, I'm so proud of you!" I nearly burst into tears. David gained quite the reputation in the NICU as a tough little man. I was proud of him too!

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