Thursday, October 9, 2008

Losing Nevaeh

I remember when I first saw the new little twin girls in our module. They were the mirror images their names, Heaven and Nevaeh, would imply. Tiny, under two pounds, and stubborn, I would watch them kick their feisty little legs when I walked past their isolettes. You see, I had to walk past all of the babies because our little girl had been relegated to isolation in the back of the module due to a MRSA infection.

In all the days I saw these babies, I never saw anyone visit them. I asked my husband if perhaps he saw their parents when he was there later in the night. Nope. "On the sly", I asked other parents and nurses if they'd seen anyone visit these pretty little girls. The parents told me "no" outright; the nurses said it all with their eyes. It made me sad and it made me angry. I tried to figure out how anyone wouldn't do anything necessary to see their children. The little girls got stronger and there was talk of transferring them back to their original hospital.

I went in to visit C. one day armed with a cooler full of expressed breast milk. As I walked up to our module, I saw the shade pulled. A sign read: "This module is temporarily closed. We apologize for the inconvenience." What? I had never seen that before. The director of family support was standing outside the door with very sad eyes. I looked at her in panic. She said very softly, "It's not your daughter. She's doing fine."

Relief almost brought me to my knees. "Thank you, Lord!" I wanted to shout. But isn't that awful? Isn't it incredibly selfish that, if I tell the absolute truth, many minutes passed before I even wondered whose baby it was. I was just so relieved it wasn't our little girl.

I had to continue calling throughout the afternoon to see when the module would re-open. When I was finally able to visit, I saw the empty isolette. And then I knew. It was Nevaeh. Heaven carried on with her antics across the room, but it wasn't the same. It wasn't like the other times when there would be a spirited little girl on either side of the aisle.

I later learned that Nevaeh's mother hadn't come when she heard her daughter was losing the fight. A nurse held that tiny little girl as she took her last breaths. The mother showed up a day later, as I wrote yesterday, in a black T-shirt with "RIP Nevaeh" silk-screened across the front.

Although I felt like I knew these little twins, I didn't know the mother at all. I heard through "the grapevine" that she was a 15-year old rape victim. I don't know how true that is, but I can tell you she did appear very young and, if that tale is true, it may explain why we didn't see much of a presence from her.

I grieved with the nurses. I recalled the tiny aqua bow that looked so cute in her ebony curls. The tears sparkled in their eyes and I knew this little girl had touched their hearts deeply. Heaven was eventually transferred out to her original hospital... but without her sister.

That first loss was a lesson to me. It was a shocking blast of ice-cold reality. It was also a test of my compassion. It took a lot for me to pray for that young mother and pity her. To try to understand that she was hurting, albeit in a different way than I might expect.

Still reeling from that experience, I took comfort in the incredibly strong faith of a couple I had met in the family lounge. They told me about their beautiful son Nathaniel who had been born missing one lung and his diaphragm.

I'll tell you more about his story soon...

1 comment:

Ryann said...

While we were at Riley, there was a little girl who also didn't have visitors. The nurses took it upon themselves to take her under their wing. As soon as she was old enough to be held, they would all take turns rocking her and caring for her in the way a mother would.

We spent a lot of time at the hospital, but because I only had a certain amount of time off of work, I ended up having to go back to work while Addy was still in the NICU. It was the most difficult thing I had to do. I would work all day then spend the evenings by her bedside. We lived close enough to the hospital, we didn't have to stay at the Ronald McDonald house... but there were nights I wish I could have. Those nights when you know each second you have is precious and uncertain.

I'm sure there were many families in the NICU that saw our daughter's bedside empty during the day and wondered why we weren't there. It made me realize that this other little girl that didn't have visitors might be in a similar situation. Turns out she was. The mother and father lived hours away and couldn't be away from home becuase they had another child and jobs. They did come when they could, although not often. It made me feel sad for that mother that she had to be so far away from her daughter for so long.

I was lucky enough that when Addy was released from the hospital, I was able to take an additional 6 weeks off to stay home with her. I was glad to have given up those 6 weeks I could have spent sitting by her side, not being able to hold her in exchange for the 6 weeks of bonding we had when she came home. Obviously, I wish I had all the time in the world to spend with her, but it all worked out for us.