• ashirk@gmail.com
  • Kijabe, Kenya
on tiny victories #2. . .

on tiny victories #2. . .

I sat in our compassionate sustainability meeting last Friday, and the billing advisor was presenting a patient – I couldn’t stop myself from smiling when they mentioned her name. . .

Rose laughed at me and asked me to explain her grin, and I took her back nearly three months.

This precious baby, born 3 months too early, was only 2 days old and had a sudden change, his oxygen dropped and although he was still breathing, we couldn’t keep the number up without helping him breathe.

I didn’t have a ventilator for him, as other patients occupied the 2 we had that were working. An xray showed a collapsed lung on the right and I called pediatric surgery to put in a tiny tube to expand the lung. He improved for a small while, but then continued to drop.

It was 7 pm and every time we placed the small mask to his face to help him breathe, his oxygen climbed. Every time we stopped, it dropped.

The intern and PECCCO on with me that night sat at the incubator and we just looked at each other – I saw the determination that had settled in my heart reflected back at me in their faces and I knew we were about to attempt something slightly irrational.

We got a high stool from PICU and I settled with my head leaning against the wall and my hands poised over his tiny mouth.

One breath. Another. Another. . . .my hands squeezed in rhythm, coordinating with his tiny lungs that were the size of 2 teaspoons – not too much air, just enough. I matched his effort with support and ignored the aching in my back and forearms.

From 7 to 2 am. . . the nurses came by and asked when we were going to stop, and I only shrugged. All I could say was, “not yet”. At 2 am, Kelvin and Ann Viola took over. I watched them breathe for him and sipped chai at the nurses station, watching them find the rhythm and his sats stabilize under their capable hands, and at 3 am, with their promises to keep me updated, I headed back under the glittering domed sky to my house.

At 4:30, Ann Viola sent me a single picture of the monitor – his lungs had expanded and he was breathing on his own. I felt my lungs expand with my first deep breath of the night.

Over the next week, our team fought for every breath – with CPAP, with suction, with measured hands, and with the ventilator as another child was extubated. His lungs improved and worsened, he fought infections and need our support day in and day.

But last week, 3 months and 2 days after one of the longest nights of my year, our team gathered around this precious baby who had doubled his birthweight and was now breastfeeding and breathing room air and we prayed sincere prayers of thanksgiving for allowing us to be part of his miracle as mom prepared to take him home. . . .

Another miracle we were privileged to walk, another baby sent home with a story of mountains moved, breath by breath and stone by stone. . .