The Story of Elissa June

Elissa June Haddad ~ February 22, 2010

For those of you coming to the party a little late, Elissa June has had a hell of a journey from birth until today.  When she was born, her umbilical cord was wrapped five times around her neck, causing serious fetal distress.  She released meconium (tar-like waste) in utero and breathed it in.  Meconium aspirated babies are usually in rough shape, but as one doctor later told me, "Your daughter could not have been any sicker."

Elissa was transferred from Mount Auburn Hospital to Mass General's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where she would stay for sixty-seven long, exhausting days.  That night, I was also transported by ambulance to MGH, where I spent four days in the maternity ward recovering from my emergency c-section.  Only 11 hours after delivering my little girl, I was up and in that wheel chair, visiting the NICU and touching my baby for the first time.  I think I was still in a bit of shock then, because looking at these pictures even now is hard.

Her lungs were almost completely collapsed and she was barely breathing, even with the support of a ventilator.  On March 3, at 3:30 AM, we finally got the phone call - they were putting her on ECMO, an artificial lung procedure that would circulate Elissa's blood through a machine then back into her body.  It would stabilize her and give her lungs the chance to heal.  Her right lung started to improve, but her left one showed no signs of expanding. She was on ECMO for eight days before they decided to try a rigid bronck to pull out the meconium and fluid still clogging her left lung. It worked! Within two days, on March 14, Elissa was disconnected from the ECMO machine and her real recovery began.  We held her for the first time on March 16, 2010, when she was twenty-two days old.

Things started to pick up after that.  Elissa had really turned a corner and our spirits were raised.  It stopped being a question of "if" she would come home, but "when." By March 23, she was off the ventilator and by March 24, I was dressing her in her first outfit.... "Berry Cute!" With her lungs working again, Elissa was breathing room air without oxygen support by March 27... then the longest part of our journey began: the drug wean. 

During her ECMO treatment, Elissa received huge doses of sedatives to keep her sleeping.  Since the ECMO machine ate most of the drugs up, her doses were extremely high, even for a full-sized adult.  She was pretty out of it for a while and the drugs could only be weaned very slowly so she would not go into withdrawal, get very sick, and end up back on oxygen support.  Some days it felt like we were walking a tight rope.  But Mike and I took the time to learn how to care for our little girl.  He read her stories and gave her manicures.  I practiced giving her baths and feeding her.  She was learning to breastfeed, starting to enjoy the time we spent with her, and acting more and more like a "normal" baby every day.

We spent St. Patrick's Day and Easter in the NICU this year, trying to make the best of a tough situation.  Some of the nurses liked to do photo shoots with the babies to keep everyone's spirits up, and that's how Ellie In A Basket was taken...  on Saturday, April 3.  The very next day, she started to show some withdrawal signs, but Mike and I suspected something else was going on.  She wasn't herself, that's for sure, but it seemed like her stomach was bothering her, not the drugs.

We were right.  On Easter Sunday, the doctors told us that Elissa had a cow's milk protein allergy.  It's different from lactose-intolerance and it is usually temporary for babies, but our breastfeeding efforts were thwarted.  We switched her to alimentum (a hypoallergenic formula) and I started a dairy-free diet to be able to give her my milk again.  Elissa seemed happier (until she got mega constipated three days later) and the diagnosis was confirmed.  The weaning continued.

Since she couldn't eat from a bottle yet (she had to re-learn), Ellie had a feeding tube through her nostril until April 22 - her two-month birthday.  It took some convincing of the doctors on our part, and an overnight stay where Mike controlled all her feedings, but they took it out.  One week later, the drugs were finally weaned (after six long weeks) and she was completely tube free.

On April 29, 2010, we finally brought our little girl home.

1 comment:

The mom of 4 monkeys! said...

I can't even imagine being in your shoes during all of this. I prayed almost constantly that first month of Ellie's life that God would heal her and comfort you, Mike and the rest of the family. I had friends and family praying for you all too!
She is such a miracle, a beautiful miracle. Her story is AMAZING!

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