You know the board game LIFE that came out twenty years ago?
I couldn’t help thinking of those spots on the board that announce sudden bad news and send you back a few spaces. Our unplanned stop in the NICU the evening of Chloe’s birth made me feel like we were playing that game. It was as if we’d landed on a space that read, “Go to NICU. Have one really bad week. Retreat five spaces.”
If you’ve ever played the game, then you know at least that Life goes on, even after you get bad news. You can have a really rough week—or an unlucky turn—and still move forward. You can even go on to win the game.
That’s how we feel about our first week with Chloe. We landed in the NICU because she was showing respiratory distress. A chest X-ray showed fluid in her lungs. The doctor started her on 48 hours of antibiotics in case it was an infection. It turned out not to be, and over the course of the week she was able to get rid of the fluid herself.
We were told the fluid may have been a result of her super-quick birth. In other words, that she didn’t get “wrung out” in the birth canal like a lot of babies. Who knows, but at least that problem wasn’t major.
What was major, and significantly more alarming, was a blood test that showed Chloe had a radically low platelet count. She hovered just at 6,000. Normal is anywhere from 150,000 to 700,000. The NICU doctors started an immediate transfusion of platelets through an IV stuck into her tiny little head.
The next morning, the head NICU doc sat down with me and my husband to explain. Chloe had thrombocytopenia, which just means she had a low platelet count. The reason though, as the doctor explained it, was that her platelets were incompatible with mine while she was in utero. Essentially, they were coded with my husband’s DNA.
This meant something called alloimmunization occurred in my body. This means I gave her an infusion of antibodies to kill off all her platelets since my body saw them as foreign. It's similar to the Rh factor that gets addressed in pregnancy (same mechanism) but is much rarer, so it's not tested for.
At any rate, we basically had to wait for her body to exhaust her supply of harmful antibodies. After her transfusions, her platelet count went up to 260,000, then began to fall again. Because of that, they kept her there for five days and nights, gave her two platelet transfusions and one infusion of IVIG, and went through three IVs (not to mention multiple pricks for failed IVs). It was awful, to say the least!
They finally let us leave the NICU when she was at 125,000, then she dropped as low as 64,000 last week. Thankfully though, we just got the good news that she's up at 104,000, which means her little body has won out and she'll just get better from here!
It's been a learning experience, and a draining one—especially since I'm against unnecessary interventions and the NICU doctors seemed to be all for any kind of test possible. Chloe's little feet looked like pincushions by the end, but despite all the stress she's been remarkably calm and composed the whole time—especially for a newborn.
As for me, I haven't put her down since we left the hospital. It's good therapy for us both!