Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: The Eagle has landed!

Got a little curve ball this week.  The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) pulled a fast one on us.  We had resigned ourselves to waiting the weekend to bring Anne Marie home on Monday when our pediatrician would be back from her vacation.  We knew we had one more hurdle to jump and that was the rooming in.  That’s where you stay the night in a room alone with the baby and any equipment they may be going home with.  It’s to make sure you can handle the events and the equipment in the middle of the night should the alarm go off.  In our case that meant dealing with a heart monitor.

By all accounts this thing was a nightmare generator.  Apparently it would go off all the time and 99.9% of the alarms would be false.  Plus the alarm could wake the dead.  We were told that by experienced parents and doctors alike.  I relayed this info to the technician charged with teaching us how to use the monitor and her reply was simply: operator error.  You know, one or two people tell me the thing is a piece of junk and I might buy the operator error excuse.  But when several people, including two of the doctors who are recommending we go home with one tell me the thing isn’t great, well the operator error excuse losses a little steam.

We were going to get the chance to test the theory.  Wednesday morning we got the call, “can you room in tonight, it looks like Anne Marie may be released tomorrow?  Will that work for you?”

Yes and yes.

We quick like packed some stuff, got Grammy to cover Frank for the night, and we were on our way for what just might be, finally, the last trip to the NICU we will ever make. Even if AM gets sick now we’re off to Children’s Hospital in downtown Knoxville.

The hang up, as it turns out, was her eating.  One doctor had concerns over the amount she was taking.  She was just getting the bare minimum required per 12 hour shift. Hmmm, just doing the minimum eh?  Just enough to get by, is she?  What do you know, I guess she’s my kid after all.  Better cancel that afternoon slot on Maury Povich’s Who’s the baby’s daddy? episode.

Anyway, Anne Marie didn’t sleep during the night, hence the Povich joke – I’m fried – but she ate like a pig all night.  So that was the last thing keeping her there.  Consequently, she’s not there anymore.  She’s here.  And by here I mean not there.  She’s home. Photographic evidence below.  But the monitor performed like a champ, no false alarms, no alarms at for that matter, and that’s always good.  The rest of the rooming in, well lets just say that is an exercise in futility.

I was skeptical before doing it and now I really have no idea what that was supposed to accomplish.  We got zero sleep, but not because of the kid or the monitor.  The whole freaking room is loud.  It’s like every item in there has a volume knob and they are all set to “stun”.  The paper towel dispenser sounds like a assembly line robotic arm, the flushing toilet sounds like a jet engine.  You couldn’t even turn over in bed because the mattress made the sound of 1000 rusty gates opening all at once very slowly.  Then we get Ma and Pa Kettle next door, also rooming in, and they decide that 2am was a good time for the airing of grievances.  As loud as it got in the hall I thought for sure they would quickly move on to the feats of strength.  So again not really sure what the sleep deprivation therapy was supposed to accomplish but I think we missed the mark a wee tad.

I have tried, over the course of a few postings, to convey the bonds and relationships that we have been building with some of the staff in the NICU.  It was a tearful goodbye as you might imagine.  We have been seeing these people every day, sometimes twice a day, for the past four months.  You don’t just walk away from that without shedding a few tears.

A lot of the staff, nurse, docs, admin, came by and said some very glowing things about Anne Marie and some nice stuff about us too.  Well it was mostly about Tracy, but I’m married to her so I get lumped in by default.  It will be very weird not to drive to the hospital every day.  Here’s hoping a lot of them can make it to AM’s first birthday.

Once the van was loaded and the tears had dried, almost, it was time to head home.  We were on our own for the first time.  Again very surreal driving away.  Might take us a few days to get our legs back underneath us.  But as we pulled in Frank came running out to meet his sister.  As usual he rose to the occasion.  “She’s so cute.” “That’s Anne Marie!” came out of his mouth the first time he saw her face to face.  This kid, he is going to be a problem down the road.  I can feel it.  Nobody says the right thing at the right time, all the time, unless they’re plotting something.

Here is Frank getting to see and hold his sister for the first time, keeping her warm in her swing, and offering her a binker, albeit with a little more force than is commonly necessary, but he got the job done, binker-wise.  I have no picture or video of it but he also sang her a song that he made up himself.  It was the requisite amount of cuteness and adorableness, I can assure you.

Actual first contact. We told you she was real Frank.

Got to stay warm – the old man likes it freezing in here.

I said take the binker! I’m the big brother now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We really weren’t sure what Frank would do. Turns out he wants to hold her, feed her, burp her, which he did, take a nap with her, etc…  Frank even started to offer her his toys.  Not just any toys mind you, but his cars from the movie Cars 2.  And not just any cars from Cars 2, but Francesco Bernoulli, the open wheel Formula One race car. Crap I don’t even get to play with Bacesco, as Frank calls him, and I take Frank to the golf course, to the pool, make him pizza and what not. Here he is, having never seen his sister face to face and he’s already giving her Bacesco!?

I mean, she really hasn’t earned it if we get down to brass tax.  Well yeah she survived death defying odds after being born 3 1/2 months early and all but I’m not sure that warrants getting Bacesco.  She didn’t even appreciate it.  She just crapped her diaper.  Them’s fightin words, or ya know, fightin noises, on the streets of my home town.

But sharing his stuff?  Already?  This dynamic I am not prepared for.  And I’m feeling like I got a little chooched because I barely get to play with Jeff Gorvette when we play cars and she got Bacesco.  Put it this way, if there is a Cars 3 sequel, Gorvette buys the farm in the opening credits or shortly thereafter, that’s how unimportant he is.  If Frank offers her any Thomas Train above the stature of, say, Skarloey, we will throw down.

Regardless of that little game within a game Frank is pretty jazzed to see his sister finally.  He held her for a second time and she started to cry.  “I’m all done with Anne Marie.”  Yeah that didn’t take long.

Do what you will with Frank, for he is already poisoned by KY Blue, but I belong to the Power T and Rocky Top!

Yeah great, can we go already?

Finally rid of us.

Seeing the sun and breathing outdoor air for the first time ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As most of you know, we did leave someone behind.  Anne Marie and Linda Claire started this together.  No doubt they’ll see each other again.  Hopefully a long time from now.

If your heart desires, donations can be made to:

In Memory of Linda Claire Linardo

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Tennessee Medical Center c/o Office of Development

2121 Medical Center Way, Suite 110, Knoxville TN, 37920

Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: The Final Countdown

Hard to believe, but we have arrived at the moment of truth.  Today we start the process to bring our daughter home.  March 22nd seems like forever ago, but it’s really only been four months.  A lot has happened in that time.

A life has come and gone, leaving us to forever wonder why it had to be that way.

Linda Clare 22 March 2012

A 1 pound 9 ounce daughter survived being born three and a half months early and an unfortunate incident where she received an adult dose of muscle relaxer meant for Cerebral Palsy patients instead of her heart medication, not once but twice. The constant pursuit of knowledge, determination to heal, and confidence of a great nurse and a young doctor were the only things standing between life and death for Anne Marie.  No insurance policy can repay that debt.

Parents learned a new phrase – one step forward, two steps back.  It’s the mantra of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and for good reason.

A mother returned to her job, into a new position, and completed all the training necessary to be qualified in her new endeavor.  A father is 3 weeks into giving up a ten year addiction to Diet Coke, eat better and workout again in an attempt to be in good health when, at the age of 59 and 62 respectively, his son and daughter will graduate high-school.  A son finished his first year of pre-school, had his third birthday, and started his first summer vacation.  A brother got a new bedroom and big boy furniture, and that freaking bean-bag chair.  He learned a new sentence – “Mommy and daddy are going to the hospital to see Anne Marie!”  He’s about to see his sister face to face for the first time ever.

A Grammy prepped, put on the market, and sold her house, moving from Lexington Kentucky to Knoxville Tennessee only to find, purchase and prep her new house.  A NICU held a fundraiser and picked up a cool $1 million American, in a effort to enhance the already superb treatment they offer to premature babies.

Relationships have been forged, lifelong possibly, hopefully.  Some of the faces in the crowd at Anne Marie’s 1st birthday party will be familiar to some but not all.  Anne Marie will know them, no doubt.  Those faces were some of the first she ever saw and she’s been seeing them morning, noon and night, for the past four months.  They’ll never admit it but they are the people who literally saved her life in general and specifically on several occasions.

So today we get training on the heart monitor Anne Marie will have to wear for a few months. Hopefully it’s just a few months.  The condition that has kept her in the NICU past her due date, the heart rate drops caused by forgetting to breathe, have all but disappeared.  Her last “event” was  four days ago.  We had hoped to avoid the monitor all together but just about everyone thinks it’s better to err on the side of caution.  After everything that has happened it is very hard to argue with that logic.

Once the training with monitor is complete, we will get a date to “room in.”  That’s where you stay overnight in a room at the hospital alone with Anne Marie.  The object is for the staff to see if we can handle the monitor and Anne Marie on our own.  Will we be able to respond properly when the monitor alarm goes off and she has an “event”.  I was against this at first, but since she is coming home with equipment I’d rather get a day to learn it with the nursing staff a hallway away with their own monitor watching Anne Marie’s vitals.

Normally after the rooming in you get discharged the next day and take the baby home. However our pediatrician is off for this week so we may have to wait until Monday to bust her out.  The staff would prefer that we take her to our pediatrician a day or two after we take her home.  Could be a Friday escape but not likely.  Either way, barring anything out of the ordinary, she will be home in less than a week.

Here is how she feels about that.

You just refuse to cut those nose hairs, don’t ya pop?

I haven’t been updating her stats because her weight has not been much a concern for a while. But the little porker is almost 9 pounds.  I have no doubt she will pass Frank in weight by this time next year, or sooner.  Tracy and I really have no idea what to expect in bringing Anne Marie home, but Frank, hell he has absolutely no clue what is about to happen to him.  A few presents have arrived at the door for Anne Marie, Frank thought they were for him.

And so it begins…

 

 

 

Here are a few shots of what should be one of our last visits to her hospital room.  Facial expression interpreted by me.

 

Nice camera – you putz!

Little help bro, dropped my binker.

 

Aye matey, be a good feller and get me a wee dram of scotch will ya. Arrgh!

I said no flash photography you half a dope!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok dad, I’m bored. Can I go home now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, AM, yes you can.

 

Off Topic: Frank’s Place T-shirt give-a-way #4

It’s time for another t-shirt give a way at Frank’s place.  T-shirt give a way #3 winners were a little stretched out.  Tracy, (another Tracy not my wife), who blogs at makingthetrek, won in May for guessing the item Anne Marie was wearing that indicated she had grown very big.  Dave Welty and his entire prayer group, 12 faithful men in all, won in late June for just about praying Anne Marie out of the NICU.  Plus Dave has been giving me some inside info to help me get my book published.  And his daughter, a good friend of Frank’s Place, asked me to.  And yeah, there was bias involved in that selection – sue me.

We have used a few different formats to pick winners.  This month is a newer format still.  Randomness.  I gave Frank a list of the people who follow and comment here at Frank’s place and he randomly selected 4 lucky winners.  He may have just been reaching for some M&Ms or as he calls them “nems”.  Either way his sugar induced shakes caused his hand to land on 4 winners.  As I have said before this is not some dumb reality show that creates a stupid crescendo only to go to commercial right before announcing the big thing.  We get right to it.  The winners are as follows:

From Indiana by way of Buffalo – Mike Muhleisen! Congrats Mike.  You might remember Mike from his comments to the post Wealth redistribution and the cookie exchange explained…by Frank.  Probably not.  Congrats anyway.  Send me your shipping address and shirt size to franknfran0967@gmail.com

From Fresno California – Shirley Stein!  Shirley still wears the uniform of the USAF, serving full time in the Fresno Air National Guard.  Size and shipping address to franknfran0967@gmail.com

From the middle of nowhere Tennessee – Zona Ash!  Zona, a friend of Frank’s Place and frequent commenter, is retired from the United States Air Force after a 20yr career.   Size and shipping address to franknfran0967@gmail.com

And from right here in Knoxvegas, Knoxville’s favorite daughter Laurie Halsey!  For the longest time I thought I was alone in my love of Little House on the Prairie and all things Walnut Grove until I met Laurie.  I would hazard a guess that we are the only two in Knoxville who can converse equally on politics and the adventures of Ma and Pa Ingalls.  If you don’t know who they are or where Walnut Grove is you’re probably a communist.

Congratulations to all the winners.  Please send me a shirt size and for you out of towner’s send a shipping address to franknfran0967@gmail.com.

Take a look at the shirt and new logo below.

Frank’s Place T-shirt

To be eleigible you must be either a member of Frank’s Place by submitting your e-mail in the space provided under Get It Fresh Off The Belt! or be a frequent commenter.  Get your name on the list somehow.  Don’t miss out!