Tag Archives: viability

“We Can Hope”

2 Jun

Needless to say, we’ve been waiting in the eye of a mighty whirlwind since Carey’s water broke a couple of nights ago and she was admitted to the BirthCare unit at Long Beach Memorial.  We’ve spent all of our time in the hospital since then and, as you’d imagine, our OB warned us that we were in for a very long night and day to to follow.  And, of course, she was right.

Yesterday morning, we met with Dr. Chan to “discuss options”.  Truthfully, we met with several doctors, but it was Dr. Chan who told us where everything stood.  (Apologies if I get some of these details wrong.  When you begin hearing terms like “viability” or “termination” or “sepsis” in relationship to your wife and three children, the world starts to strobe and details get fuzzy.)

Chan looked at our ultrasound and described what’s happening.  Baby A, who’s lowest, next to the cervix, is the baby whose sac ruptured.  By yesterday morning, the amniotic fluid had drained more or less completely, causing the sac to, in Chan’s words “shrink wrap” around him.  What fluid is left is in the pockets around his body and Carey continues to leak amniotic fluid throughout the day and night.

The biggest problem with this isn’t necessarily that Baby A has less fluid or that he’s all scrunched up in a ball (those things are big problems later down the line, but it’s not the immediate concern).  A fetus is able to survive in those conditions and A’s heart continues to beat just fine, but it’s the risk of infection that worries everyone here at Memorial.

Carey was experiencing minor contractions when she was admitted (so small that she couldn’t even feel them), but they put her on medicine to counteract it during the first night.  Eventually, Chan made the ruling to take her off the contraction-blocker, as it was only serving to mask infection.

The trouble with infection is that it begins as perfectly safe bacteria that’s either introduced into Carey’s body from the outside or already exists there to begin with.  Our bodies are accustomed to it and our immune systems keep everything in equilibrium, but the game changes during pregnancy.  Hormones make gestating fetuses extremely susceptible to any sort of infection and the barriers between our children and certain disaster are the cervix and the sacs.  At one centimeter dilated and the bottom most sac ruptured, that’s very bad news.

A lot of people have asked if it’s possible to save the other two if something happens to Baby A and Chan explained that, with infection, it doesn’t exactly work like that.  Any direct, invasive action taken to address the situation introduces more bacteria and increases risk of infection.  It’s not really a matter of taking one baby out to save the other two.  There are definite exceptions, but in most cases, if one becomes infected, it’s likely the infection will progress to the uterine lining and other placentas.  And if that happens, it becomes a matter of saving Carey’s life instead of the babies.

We asked what the chances are for all three to make it and Chan was straightforward: about 30%. And, of course, the likelihood of the kids living with motor-neuro deficiencies or spending their lives in wheelchairs due to CP is now extremely high.  I asked him if it was at all possible for us to have three healthy, fully-functioning  children at this point.  He shrugged: “we can hope.”

Now, I’m a realistic guy.  I know that “we can hope” is doctor-ese for “extremely doubtful and you need to prepare yourself for some very cold realities.”

He discussed Options with us.  He warned us that to continue down this path could make it very difficult for Carey to get pregnant in the future.  He said that the odds weren’t with us and there’s a strong possibility of handicapped children, even if things begin moving in a positive direction.  He mentioned that we’re still a couple of weeks away from 24 weeks, the Age of Viability, and that’s the point where he’s no longer allowed to treat termination as an option.  He asked if we would object to any termination discussions from here on out.

Carey and I weren’t exactly sure what to say.  We’re Pro Life people.  Carey in particular is a hard and fast believer in the sacredness of all life, including-but-not-limited-to human beings, born or unborn.  We’ve agreed that nature is better at deciding these sorts of things than we are.  But, like that annoying instigator who throws up his hand in the midst of every college Ethics course discussion and plays the devil’s advocate, life is testing what we believe by introducing an extreme scenario.

We finally said we want to wait and see.

“There’s a phenomenon,” Chan told us, “where a ruptured sac can seal itself back up.  It happens very rarely and we can’t explain it, but I’ve seen it.  The sac heals and fills again with amniotic fluid.  After a few days and weeks, well, we’re back in business.”

“How often does that happen?” we asked.

“I don’t want to get your hopes up for that.  It’s rare.  I’m tempted to say it’s a 1% chance, but even that is being too generous.”

“Have you ever seen it with multiples?”

“Ah… I’m not sure how to answer that.  I think probably only singletons, but I can’t recall.  It’s unexplainable.  A miracle.”

Later, Carey and I were discussing what we thought.  What should we be praying for?  Is there any hope left for our boys?

“What do you think?” Carey asked me.  “Be honest.”

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I just laid the truth on her, as I see it: “Well, less than 1% isn’t 0%.  And it’s got to happen to somebody.  So why not two people who are right now being prayed for by hundreds of people all over the world?”

She agreed.  So that’s our prayer.

It’s Thursday morning, just before lunch, and Carey is still losing amniotic fluid.  Miracles are called miracles for a reason, though, and we’re taking Chan at his word: “we can hope.”

People have been absolutely astonishing with their prayers and encouragement.  To anyone who says blogging and social media is a waste of time, I say, respectfully, that Twitter, WordPress, Facebook and txt messaging have been our saving grace and anchor throughout this impossible time.  All over the world, we’ve received emails and txts, wall posts and blog comments, tweets and retweets from dearly loved family and friends and also Tweeters and Bloggers we’ve never met with encouragements, prayers and soothing words that have given us smiles and hopes in our darkest hours.

Several times a day I’ve pulled out my iphone and read Carey the latest, wishing we could reply to each person with hugs and heartfelt thanks.  “Good thoughts and vibes from me to you,” people have said.  “We’re praying.” “We know someone in a similar circumstance and they came out of it with a healthy baby.”  “We love you, we’re praying now and all through the day.”

“Praying.” “Praying.” “Praying.”

It would be impossible to describe all the encouragement we’ve received, but I want to mention one or two.

Marisa Palma: thank you for bringing meal after meal to the hospital.

Jerry and Pat Giles: thank you for getting out of bed at an ungodly hour to come and pray for us and give us a desperately-needed Psalm.

Mom, Dad, George, Shannon, Kelley, Erin, Lauren, Schwyzen, Danielle: thanks for crying with us on the phone and asking and listening.  It’s okay that you’re not sure what to say.  Being there for us is enough.

If you’ve txted us or posted something on your wall or commented or tweeted or retweeted: thank you.

If you’ve had a life long faith and are praying, or if you’ve told us, “I’m not a praying sort of person, but I’m praying for you,” or if you’ve simply wanted to send us good thoughts or vibrations or love or care or anything at all: thank you.

Thanks also for being understanding about what Carey and the boys need most.  It’s entirely possible that we’re unable at a given moment to take your call or receive an in-person visitor, particularly if you’re getting over a cold or something that could be dangerous.  Please don’t hesitate to ask if it’s an okay time, though.  If we’re able to talk or see you, we certainly would love to.

Most of all, please continue to lift us up.  It’s a difficult time and it’s far from over.  We’re trying our best to stay positive and get sleep when we can (I’ve gotten pretty used to this beside chair at this point).

I’ll continue to update Twitter when I can.

We’re going to keep hoping.  Hope with us, would you?

June 2, 2011

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