Read part one of Olive’s story here…
On Saturday morning, I woke up to the call that Olive had successfully made it out of surgery and was stable in the PICU. After my parents found out what was going on, my mom had gotten on a flight as soon as possible, so she was already on her way to help. Eric’s parents, who were in Utah for a wedding, were planning on coming back as well. Our cousin Amber came to watch Josie while I went to the hospital, and I again rushed out the door. It would be the beginning of a very long two weeks.
I walked into the hospital room to find Olive hooked up to a plethora of machines, with even more wires running from her. She had a gauze turban around her swollen head, and a breathing tube running from her throat. As hard as it was to see her like that, I was full of so much gratitude that she was alive and I was comforted by the sudden knowledge I had that she was going to be okay – I just didn’t know how.
We spent the rest of the day sitting next to Olive’s bedside, holding her hand, and talking to the nurses. She was heavily sedated and would hardly move or open her eyes. It was comforting, though, to know that she wasn’t feeling pain and that she wouldn’t remember one bit of this time.
Olive would make the occasional movement, especially when the doctor would come in and pinch her foot or poke her arm. Since her injury was to the left side of her brain, the focus was placed on her moving the right side of her body. The best part of my day was when the doctor came in and saw her move her right leg.
I remember him saying she was “remarkable,” and my heart leapt. Our little girl was fighting to survive.
The neurosurgeon that did Olive’s surgery, Dr. Ling, came in to speak with us later in the day. He explained that there is a period of 96 hours after brain surgery where it’s very “touch and go.” We basically had to sit and watch to find out how baby’s body was going to respond to the injury. We didn’t know what specific portions of her brain were hurt, so we didn’t know what would be affected. Also, when a brain is injured, it takes time for it to respond to the injury and to establish whether a part is simply injured, but still functioning, or dead (meaning it was deprived of oxygen for too long).
And so we waited.
My mom showed up around 1:30 pm and sat with us for a while. She was with me when Olive was born and felt such a special connection to her. I was so glad that she was able to be with me during this time and be such a strength and comfort to me.
The next few days were spent sitting, talking, and watching. I would sleep for a few hours at night while my Mom sat with her, and then would sit with her during the day while my Mom slept. Eric would come during the day and bring his Bar exam materials. We would read questions to each other – believe it or not, he still planned on taking the exam.
Olive began having seizures on the second day, which were not brain-damaging, but more her brain responding to the injury that had already occurred. She was put on three different seizure medications, which have now been whittled down to one. On the third day, she received another CT scan and later an MRI to determine the complete damage on her brain. The results were incredible.
Where there was once a huge mass of blood, her brain had moved back into place. The neurologist who spoke with us, Dr. Reggin, explained that there had been a significant stroke on the left side of her brain, but it was on the surface, rather than in the central gray matter. On the right side, there was a pocket of blood in the cerebellum, but this was expected to absorb into the brain. Overall, Dr. Reggin said that he felt “cautiously optimistic.” He told us that he is the “slow doctor,” so we can only see how Olive’s brain will work over time. More waiting, but by this point we were getting good at it.
The next days were marked by milestones, which all seemed like little miracles.
Towards the end of the third day, Olive was taken off of sedation and opened her eyes for the first time in days.
On the fourth day, her breathing tube came out. I have never been happier to hear a baby cry.
On the fifth day, she was started on a feeding tube of breastmilk. (Thank goodness for hospital grade breast pumps.)
And then…one week from when she arrived in the PICU, Olive was determined to no longer be “critical.” We were sent to the Pediatric Oncology wing, where I could sleep in the room with Olive and we would spend the next week learning to eat again and taking the time to heal.
I kept waiting for signs that Olive had had a severe brain injury, but miraculously, she just seemed like a normal one month old. My Dad was finally able to visit the weekend after we left the PICU and was amazed by how well she was doing. It was hard to tell that anything was wrong.
In the weeks following her surgery, Olive got more and more jaundiced, so we visited with a gastroenterologist, to ensure that there were no problems with her liver. After numerous pokes, blood draws and tests, another miracle – everything was fine. Olive will be yellow for a few more weeks, but everything will resolve itself in time.
On Thursday, February 27, 2014, after almost two weeks in the hospital, we were discharged. Olive’s discharge paperwork listed the following diagnoses:
Hemorrhagic Disease Of The Newborn Due to Vitamin K Deficiency, Subdural Hematoma, Acute Respiratory Failure, Increased Intercranial Pressure, Ischemic Brain Damage, Seizure, Cerebral Infarction of the Left Hemisphere, and Cholestatic Jaundice
And after all of that, if you didn’t see the scar across half of her head, it would be hard to tell anything was wrong.
Olive is nothing short of a miracle. After seeing her condition the first night and seeing her now, only two weeks later, I am still in a state of disbelief. Countless doctors and nurses told me what amazing progress she was making. She took to nursing again like a champ. She is moving both sides of her body, with very little difference in strength. And since her surgery, we have all been able to see her beautiful smile.
There will still be struggles from here, I’m sure. We are uncertain of what Olive’s future will bring, or what challenges this brain injury will cause. But despite all of that, I am so grateful for the blessing that she has been to our life thus far and all that she has taught me about the love of God – and of all people. Above all, I have never been more aware of God’s concern for every life, even the newest and smallest.
And I will forever be thankful for that.