Monday, September 13, 2010

Athan Gives Us Hope- Part One

Athan was born just 3 months (3 months and 4 days, to be exact) after Oli's first birthday, on a Friday evening. I couldn't believe he weighed exactly what Oli did (6 pounds, 6 ounces). I cried and cried after he was born. I was so happy for our family and so happy that Oli was a big brother. He was such a quiet baby- he didn't cry at all the first night we were in the hospital. It sounded more like he "purred" than cried. Our nurses explained to us that his breathing was a little bit faster than normal, and for us that explained the "purring". But, once this continued through the next day, and into the next evening we began to worry... something just didn't seem... right. 
I remember sitting alone in the hospital bed with Athan. We had just had a TON of visitors, all of which had just left, including Oli and JR. Athan was breathing so fast and I remember crying and pleading with him to "please calm down... please calm down Athan." I felt so alone and for the first time was really, truly scared for him. A short time later, our nurse came in and took him to the nursery, saying he needed oxygen and that the pediatricians wanted to run some tests on him. This scared us, but right away we were insured that everything was fine- some babies just have a hard time breathing at first. 
For two more days Athan stayed in the hospitals nursery on oxygen. Monday we were told that we could more than likely take him home the next morning. With the idea that our whole family would be home together in just a few more hours, JR and I took Oli and spent a little time with just him away from the hospital. JR dropped me back off at the hospital and took Oli to the park. Everything felt like it was falling into place... 
Then I returned to the maternity floor and our world was turned upside down. Our pediatrician, Dr. Bruce, was waiting for us. He said he had heard back from Children's Hospital who had looked over the tests that were run on Athan's heart and that he (Athan) needed to be transported to Children's Hospital right away. The flight for life ambulance was already on its way. I frantically called JR and told him he needed to come back to the hospital right away.
JR took Oli to a friends house and came back at the hospital as soon as he could. They let him hold Athan until flight for life arrived. JR sobbed like I never imagined he could- he was so scared and worried for Athan, and he loved his second son SO much. 
Flight for life arrived and put Athan in one of those oxygen box looking things (clearly I don't know what they are actually called) and strapped it to a gurney. He had tubes and wiring everywhere and on top of the gurney he looked so tiny. Well, he was so tiny...
I rode in the ambulance the 60 some miles to Children's Hospital in Aurora, while JR reluctantly stayed home with Oli.  I felt like my whole world was cloudy- having just given birth a few days before, I was on some pretty strong pain killers, and just couldn't seem to think straight. I understood what the doctors were saying to me and I comprehended it just fine, but I could not for the life of me relay this information to anyone else. And it was frustrating. 
I spent the first night on the makeshift couch/bed in Athan's room and doubt I even got an hour of sleep. He was hooked up to what seemed like a million machines- alarms seemed to go off every few minutes, his nurse seemed to poke and prod him even more often. One of the Cardiology "Fellows" (to this day, I don't know why they call themselves that...) came in to do and echo on his heart at about 1 in the morning, when he finally confirmed that Athan did, in fact have a Coarctation of the Aorta. I was told he would be having surgery as soon as he was strong enough to. 
Early Tuesday morning JR came down to Children's. We had a few visitors throughout the day and later were told he would be having surgery the next day- at only five days old. I missed Oli so, SO much and so it was decided that I would go home to Loveland for the night with Oli and JR would stay at Children's with Athan. 
I spent that night cuddling and crying with Oli. This was not at all the way we'd pictured this all going. And early the next morning, I took Oli to my friends mom's house where he would spend the day before spending the night with my friend Tammy. I can't begin to explain the guilt I felt, having hardly seen him in the last 5 days. 
I think Athan's surgery was supposed to be at 10 am (although, I can't be sure, as I was so exhausted I could still hardly think straight!). I arrived at Children's at about 9:30 and we were told his surgery was being delayed for a few hours. Ugh! That meant a few more agonizing hours for us to wait and be done with this. JR's parents and my sister-in-law Vicki had come to spend the day with us. We went in shifts to visit Athan- so tiny and little laying with nothing but a diaper on in the little plastic "bin" (again not really what it's called, but as far as I'm concerned, that's what it was), a million wires and tubes and IV's and every other not good thing there could possibly be hooked to him. While he was in surgery, we went to the hospitals cafeteria for some lunch where we all just sat and hoped for the best. 
Then only an hour and a half or so after he'd gone to the operating room, we were told he was done and doing well and we could go see him. We were amazed that it had gone so fast! JR and I went back to his room. We felt so helpless seeing him just laying there on a ventilator, his little chest rising and falling in time with the machine that was doing his breathing for him. He had a draining tube in his belly just under his left ribs and oxygen tubes taped to his little cheeks. At first we didn't see where the incision was- we expected it to be down the middle of his chest like any heart surgery we'd known- but it was actually along his left side- basically from just left of his spine, around the left side of his little body. This was the hardest thing we'd ever had to see. Our son, only five days old, being asked to fight so hard already. It broke our hearts. 

***I've decided to do this post in two parts- It'd just be WAY too long to do all in one... So part two will be posted tomorrow.***


  1. I found you through Aunt Becky and I'm sending all my good ju-ju to your sweet, sweet bundle Jillian.

  2. Honey, I can't even imagine. When Tab had pneumonia, they had an I.V. in her hand...she still has a scar there and I still cry over it sometimes. Even now, 13 years later. You never know how much you can love, and how much you can hurt, until you have a child.