As you may know already, this past Tuesday evening brought us quite a surprise when a nurse came running to me to let me know that a woman had precipitously delivered a premature infant in the ward, and it was under her bed! I ran over to find an amniotic sac complete with the placenta exactly where she said. My immediate thought was "This baby is too premature, and dead." As I grabbed the still intact sac, the tiny life wiggled inside, to my shock and awe. I tore open the sac, (quite difficultly actually) and luckily a quick thinking nurse's aid had already tossed a clean blanket on the floor. A gasp for air and tiny cry that could only be heard within an 18 inch distance--this little girl was alive! Some appropriate panic followed, but soon enough our new little miracle was in an incubator and breathing on her own with the help of some oxygen.
Facebook posts went up about the crazy event and some of you may only be reading this blog now because of a "shared post". Many of you probably thought, "So how do you not know that someone is pregnant?!" To take you back to the beginning, this woman came in emergently around 5pm to our surgical clinic with a trapped umbilical hernia. Despite her reported 4 month pregnancy, and exam findings consistent with her report, she needed an operation now. The option was to pray that the stress of the operation didn't put her into labor. Durung the hours that followed, she complained of abdominal pain that was consistent with post-operative discomfort. Due to the timing of her surgery and shift changes, the nursing team was not yet aware of her pregnancy status. So, when she asked a nurses aid to help her off her bed in order to use the bedside commode, no one could anticipate what was coming next. I don't even think the mom herself knew what had happened since when I came running in to her, she was lying in her bed calmly, believing that "something had come out" from her surgery.
The little girl turned out to be about 27.5 weeks, just over the viable limit for us here. Her risk factors were many, but she looked strong and was obviously a fighter. We also had half the Facebook world praying by that time as the short story of her arrival travelled fast. How could she not do well? Surely the Lord was going to use this little one to show how strong and mighty He is! Surely even people thousands of miles away will be moved to see how amazing God is because this little miracle survived for years to come despite the odds!
About 36 hours later I got a call at home that our little girl suddenly wasn't breathing well, despite already being placed on CPAP-- the most airway support we can give here. I biked over to the hospital thinking that it might be a long day of creative airway support for her, but if we could make it over the next 24 hours, she would recover. She was awake and fiesty when I arrived, but her oxygen levels were low despite the nurses already doing everything right for her. The other pediatrician came and we looked at her brain with an ultrasound probe--left sided bleed--all too common in premies here and in the US. She would still grab my hand and open her eyes, but her struggle to breathe was evident. While another doctor spoke with the family, we made a last ditch effort to intubate her. Although we don't have ventilators I was hoping that a secure airway would help her and we could take turns bagging her for the da and evening to come.
But that was not to be.
The family took the news outwardly well which wasn't suprising. Families here often won't hold or name a child until they know he or she will survive. A long-standing cultural defense mechanism against the loss of too many babies for these women. I am still struggling with the loss and sorting through which are the effects of anger, embarrassment, humility, sorrow, and frustration.
Maybe I just wish she had a name.
In my selfishness of grief I think: what was 36 hours for? There will be no photo album filled with every passing hour of her short life, celebrated for years to come. No birthday remembrance every year on August 5th. Wouldn't it have been easier if that tiny, unbroken sac never jumped with signs of life? How did that glorify God?
I have never seen one of my Facebook posts get shared so many times as the other day. Some comments were promising to pray for her, some just marveling at the miracle if tiny life, and some giving me credit where none was due. But maybe some of you, for the first time, were considering the value of every life and acknowledging the power and wonder of God. If that in the case, was her 36 hours of life worth it?
Was it worth it for God to allow that little life to touch you for 36 hours from 3000 miles away so that you might take a moment to recognize his power and might, his grace and kindness, his mercy and truth?
Out little girl does have a name, because God Himself knit her together in her mothers womb and numbered her days from the beginning of time. Maybe she will introduce herself to me when my life too comes to pass and the Lord takes me home. What a joyous day that will be.