Thursday, March 12, 2009

Slaves to the Monitor

One of the things that Rachel and I are trying to do right now that is providing to be quite a challenge is to ween ourselves from the monitors that the Twinsler's are hooked up to.

When you first walk into the NICU, most people are surprised at how not-hospital it looks. It feels more like a uber-corporate cubical farm w/ each baby having their own little area separated from the other babies by small dividers and rows of cabinets. The second thing that you notice are the sounds. There are all sorts of beeps, buzzes and chimes going off at any time, and then you start to coordinate those sounds w/ how people react. Some alarms trigger urgent responses from nurses, while others just seem to go on and on and on w/ no one seeming to care. It is the NICU's own language, and as a means of survival, you need to quickly get up to speed, or you'll drive yourself crazy worrying about your kids.
At the end of our first week in the NICU, we had one of the nurses walk us through every part of the monitor (screen seen above). The Right hand column shows the baby's statistics that the monitor is directly hooked up to. The left column is another baby of the nurses choice. The whole NICU is networked so that a nurse can keep an eye on another baby that is not w/i eye or earsight. The green row show's the baby's heartrate. Babies have (or should have) a higher heartrate than us old folks. We like to see btw 120 & 160 for this number. The yellow line is the babies breathing rate per minute. This fluctuates in a huge way, sometime dipping into the teens or single digest, the spiking up in the 100's. They sometimes forget to breath, and as I understand it, that is really the crux of SIDS, kids just forgetting to start breathing again. The blue row is the blood oxygen saturation level, and that number is a percentage of 100. We all "sat" 100 most all the time, but preemie babies vary btw dangerously low (<75) and the high 90's. The first two lines, heart rate & breathing rate, directly effect the oxygen saturation, and this saturation is what will affect the health of the baby later. Example, the babies breathing and heart rate can be really bad for a certain length of time, but as long as all the organs are still getting oxygen, we're OK.

The white line is the last blood pressure reading taken. This is taken twice a day. and the little red fine print is a log of all the most recent times that the baby gone out of their "zone". Apnea, brady cardias, low sats, all things we do not want to see here. So when you initially com into the NICU, you immediately look up to the monitor and look for the red... how has she been doing? Each baby has allowable range for each of these readings, and depending on how far out of the zone they are, an alarm sounds. One beep for this and two beeps for that. Every device has its own alarm and "voice".

So, for the last 5 weeks, Rachel and I have become slaves to the monitors. Now they are telling us to watch the baby, not the monitor. This is way easier said than done, but we are trying. Yesterday during baths, we had them completely disconnected. It felt like I was unplugging Neo from the Matrix! All went well, but it is quite a transition.

I'll post some pics of the baths soon, that was a good time.

-tinny out

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