The One With The Intensive Care Unit, Part Two

After being admitted to the ICU, I was a patient for another eight days. My memory is a bit foggy, but I do remember being woken up every hour or so for neurological tests (squeezing the nurse's fingers, putting my arms out in front of me, smiling, pushing my feet, and sticking my tongue out). I didn't mind being woken up because if I had more control over it, I would have never slept. I just wanted to get up and see my baby; however, I honestly could barely stay awake. I tended to fall asleep mid-conversation without realizing. I was very medicated, partly do to my anxiety over sleeping because my original headache happened at night. It also hurt to have my eyes open because of my newfound sensitivity to light, so I would just pass out randomly without warning. Because of the vulnerability to brightness (and the fluorescent lighting throughout the hospital), I was always wearing sunglasses which made it hard to tell that I wasn't actually awake during interactions with people. The silver lining is that when I walked through the halls, the doctors and nurses called me "Hollywood."
Even though I was able to get up and walk with help (and was encouraged by my nurses), I was always wheeled in my bed to the CAT scan machine. I had over ten scans in my whole stay, which is enough for the technicians to call you by name and ask how your baby is doing, just in case you were wondering. My motion sickness was so bad, too, that I even needed to be medicated to be transported. That didn't help with my mission to stay conscious.

Even though all I wanted was to see Flynn, I understandably wasn't allowed. It wouldn't be good for me to go up there because it would take too much out of me, and I also didn't want to endanger him or any of the other babies by transporting something that someone else in the ICU was possibly carrying. They did offer to bring the baby down to me one time, which I cautiously allowed. I didn't want to touch him because I was too uncomfortable being so medicated and I also was scared for him to be exposed to the room air because of the ailments surrounding me. The fifteen minutes he was in my room, however, were the brightest minutes I'd had in what felt like forever.

I cried a lot during my stay in the ICU. I heard lots of codes and alarms, there were a lot of wails and screams, I saw a lot of crying family members, and I had someone die in the room next to mine. There is a lot that happened during the week that I spent on that floor that has changed me forever. It's because of all that I experienced there that I wouldn't let anyone come visit me. It was too much for me to imagine anyone seeing me that way in that setting. My family was already subjected to it and I didn't want anyone else to be, too. It was lonely, but my husband was with me the whole time. He did more than I would have ever expected him to do, especially at our age. I thought I had another fifty or so years before I needed help showering or going to the bathroom, but he did it. He also split his time between me and the baby so neither of us was alone for too long.

After six days, I was moved out of the ICU and into the step-down unit. They were getting ready to send me home, but wouldn't give me a date because they didn't want me to get my hopes up. At least this new room, even though I no longer had a private space, had a bathroom. I failed to mention that the last one did not, and that I had to use a portable toilet. After some time, I lacked discretion and didn't care but it took some getting used to.
- Another shoutout to my amazing nurses who put up with me. -
I also was able to recline a bit more in this recovery bed, which felt like a cloud compared to the brick I had been sleeping on. I had previously had to remain sitting for the most part to attempt to drain the blood out of my head, and now my restriction was lessened. I finally got a quality night's sleep, probably because I was so exhausted. Even though I had slept through most of my stay, it didn't provide me much relief or rest. Until now. There was a light at the end of the tunnel and pretty soon, I was going home. Two days later, I did. I was feeling better, but the clot and bleed were still present. The clot had become slightly smaller, allowing a bit of blood to pass through (due to the blood thinners that I was given through my IV). I went home on a bunch of medication, including an injectable anticoagulant to be administered three times a day. Having been on hormone injections previously (stay tuned), this wasn't foreign to me and I was comfortable with it. I just wanted to go home and start to get my life back.

I already had given birth to my son twelve weeks early, but this was just the beginning of the unraveling of my plans for my family and for the future. Up until this point, I had been pumping every three hours and my husband (or myself) was bringing everything that I got to the NICU every day when we visited. My hope was to breastfeed Flynn when he was at the appropriate age (34 weeks), but he was able to get my milk through his feeding tube in the meantime. We had also signed up for the milk donor program, which supplemented what I couldn't provide, but he was still being fed breastmilk exclusively. I'm a big believer in "fed is best," but it was my plan to breastfeed my baby. Because my health declined so much, it was recommended that I cease pumping. I complied because having a healthy momma is more important, as long as Flynn was getting fed what he needed and he was. Well, my supply diminished and by the time I left the hospital, it was gone. My choice was taken away for me because my body, once again, failed me. It was just an added grief on top of everything else and another plan that had gone off the rails. Unfortunately, for me, it was just the tip of the iceberg.

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