Thank you for the outpouring of congratulations and support after my email announcement last week. There were many requests for updates and pictures and I will try to use this forum to update our friends and extended family about our little boy. Unlike Kate, who already plays a big part in Wallace’s growth and health, I just drive her around, take pictures, and worry. I will now add this to my routine and maybe it will displace some worry.
Kate and I have become part of a mysterious and secretive world that few think about and nobody ever wishes to join. In Brisbane, this world consists of an entire floor of a massive hospital, with 80 tiny beds. It is where infants go if they are born too early, born sick, or both. Fear of infection restricts access almost exclusively to parents, doctors, and a team of remarkable nurses who are the closest thing to angels that I have ever seen.
Pregnancies are meant to last 40 weeks. The prognosis for a child born at 31 weeks and 3 days gestation is, to a surprising degree, still a mystery. Survival rates are very high but so many other questions are unanswered. Some babies born at 26 (or even earlier) weeks can grow quickly become healthy and happy with just a bit of help and go on to live wonderfully ordinary lives, others born at 35 week (or later) can be very sick with life-long troubles of all sorts. Doctors do not know until the minutes, hours, and days after birth what the consequences of prematurity may be and what interventions will be needed to help a baby survive.
Wallace Kenneth Magolan was born on March 19, 2010 – about two months ahead of schedule and at just 1.415 kg. For Kate and I, the experience was unbearable. Wally was not supposed to eat or breathe until the middle of May and we were asking him to step up and do it in March.
Because our lungs are among the final organs to mature in the womb, pre-mature babies often have breathing troubles. When I was told, hours before the birth of my first son, that near the top of the list of many potential problems for which to prepare was ‘possible severe respiratory disease’, I did not hear word ‘possible’ – just the other three.
But the difficult moments leading up to delivery are behind us now - and as many of you already know, since Wally’s birth we have heard good news and more good news. After about a day of assistance he was asked to try breathing on his own for a little while (without little nose ‘scuba gear’ called CPAP). So he did – and to everyone’s surprise the ‘scuba gear’ was never again required. Next he was asked to eat on his own instead of through an IV drip. So he did. A few drops of mother’s milk through a tube into his belly. When he showed the doctors that he could digest it they gave him more, and more, and more… and by day four he was downing 20 mL of milk every two hours and the IV (with supplemental calories) was removed from his little arm because he no longer needed that either. By day six they were adding a calorie enhancing powder to mom’s milk to help him grow even faster. The temperature of his little incubator home was slowly decreased from 37 to 32 degrees during his first week as he showed everyone that he wanted to try contributing a bit to keeping himself warm.
Wallace is taken out of his incubator twice daily and placed on his mom’s chest for a couple of hours - a process called skin-to-skin-care or kangaroo-care. The name has little to do with Australia but everything to do with kangaroos. This skin-to-skin time has been shown to ‘magically’ help pre-mature babies grow faster, resist infection, and develop well.
The hospital keeps him breathing but Kate gives him a reason to breathe. It's beautiful.
More to come.