Saturday, July 06, 2013

One Innovation I've Needed Twice: the NICU
My Little Daughter Is 5 Years Strong

Note: This is a personal post this week. Back with business communication next week...
Hours after birth.

I see a woman around town. She looks so familiar that I stare and think hard about how I know her. She does not recognize me, and I am terrible at remembering.

But my heart always tells me there’s something about her that I need to remember.

To never forget.

My little daughter just turned five. On her birthday, I went through her hospital photos. This is the first image I saw of her, hours after her birth, but still hours before I could go to the NICU to hold her.

While she was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (called the Nic-U for short), I was all kinds of postpartum crazy and couldn’t leave my room. Not because she was in the NICU, but because giving birth is not always the sweet little process shown on A Baby Story. My son started in the NICU, so I was not afraid of it. I also knew my little daughter was early but full-term and she cried upon delivery, so I was somewhat hopeful she was just having a little post-birth crazy of her own. My son's visit had been very brief, but I knew that in the NICU, like he had, she would receive the best care possible because if any part of a hospital continues to innovate and discover new things—if any staff continues to learn—it’s in there, where little miracles happen every day. I knew in the NICU that she would be cared for by people who want to see medicine advance and want to make the seemingly impossible…possible.

In some of the pictures, the nurse stood over my little daughter protectively:

This nurse seemed so fiercely
protective of my daughter as my
husband received an update about her care.
(My sister-in-law took this photo.)

Maybe I was a little drugged. Maybe I should have worried when a fat yellow folder welcoming us to the NICU landed on my bed table later. But each report from my husband was good, and we relaxed.

When a nurse finally said I could go the NICU, I met the nurse I had seen in pictures all day. She was fiercely protective of my daughter. Here is what seemed true about her: She had nothing to worry about and nothing to think about other than caring for my daughter. When is the last time you met someone who gave that impression? And at that time, I was such a mess that I’m not sure who needed her more: my daughter who needed her medically or me who needed her to step in so I could heal.

Our NICU stay was 2 days; the average stay is 19. The staff in the NICU is hyper-vigilant and obsessive about protocol and rules. The door is kept locked, and when you enter, you are met with skepticism. Are you clean? Did you scrub your hands? Are you bringing one of those green germs who star in the Clorox commercials? Every infant there is treated with the specific care he or she needs. In that room, it is not about you, but about the baby.

This month, my daughter is five years strong. This year, when I look at her newborn pictures, my heart tugs at the sight of the nurse, of her hand protecting my baby. My heart tugs in the same way it does when I see the woman whose name I do not know. Only this year, when I look at the newborn photos, I put the two together. I’m pretty sure I now know that the woman I've seen in town was my daughter’s NICU nurse. Do you know how grateful I am for her expertise? Her compassion?

in "disguise"...playing spy
Sometimes we think only inventors or only start-ups or only R&D companies or only university researchers look for new ideas, new ways of doing things, but it’s not true. When we celebrate entrepreneurship and innovation, we need to celebrate the people who work in fields where innovation brings progress. We also need to celebrate the people willing to learn new things, to adopt new ideas and try them. The NICU is one of those places.

Thank you to all the NICU workers who must learn something new every day.

1 comment:

  1. Great story, Charlsye...and happy birthday to your little spy who will continue to entertain you and the world for years to come.