Thursday, November 5, 2009

65 Minutes in the Hallway

Today is the first of my guest posts and I have asked my husband to share his side of the preemie experience. I hope that you enjoy his part of the story...

When Denise asked me to write about my experience as a NICU dad and father of a preemie, I knew I needed to accept the offer. Parker is probably the single greatest accomplishment in my life so far. For years I have realized that being a dad is among the greatest honors that I can imagine. His birth, though, was one of the most disorienting experiences possible.

9 days prior to Parker's birth, Denise & I had been to the hospital in the middle of the night because she was experiencing difficulty breathing. During that long ordeal, the diagnosis was the severe heartburn that plagues many women during pregnancy. Her OB, though, did follow up and was paying attention to all of the right things in those 9 days until Parker's birth.

Having set that context, when Denise wasn't able to sleep comfortably on May 28, neither of us suspected what was going to be happening in the next few hours. At 3am, having exhausted all of our ideas for making her comfortable, we called the doctor who referred us back to the hospital. When we arrived at 4am, both of us assumed it would be another short stay in the triage section of labor & delivery for a similar ailment.

As things progressed and we learned the seriousness of Denise's condition, that's when I went into "hospital mode". When I was growing up, my brother, Steve have multiple medical complications that led to routine hospitalizations. Being 4 years older than me, I never knew life that wasn't in and out of the hospital. Personally, I've never been admitted to a hospital, but I've spent significant time around them and doctors' offices. That's led to me having pretty strong coping mechanisms and such for that environment that I collectively call "hospital mode".

On the morning of May 29, 2008, all I knew was that I had to go into "hospital mode" in order to be strong and be there for my wife and soon-to-be-born child. I disconnected myself emotionally from what was happening and was simply "there" for Denise. During the hour or so we had between the decision for the emergency c-section and her being wheeled back into the surgical suite, I simply stood by her bed and sought to comfort her.

When they took her back to surgery, I was unable to go with her. The process of getting me prepped to be in the operating room was going to take too long, particularly in light of the fact that she would be under general anesthesia and that this was an emergency procedure. I was able to walk alongside as they wheeled her back to the operating suite, but had to stop at the big red line on the floor that divides the sterile from open environments. At the big red line, I was introduced to my companion for the next 65 minutes, the bench.

Just outside the recovery section of the labor & delivery surgical suite, there is a bench in the hallway. That was where I spent the approximately 65 minutes between when Denise was wheeled into surgery and when she was taken to the ICU. In those 65 minutes, I sat numbly texting furiously to keep myself occupied. The staff at the hospital was so gracious to me. They checked on me, they offered me snacks, and they updated me on my family. I cannot thank them enough.

Those 65 minutes are the longest of my life. When it comes to my family, I am a doer. I do things. I don't sit by. I have this compulsion to fix things and to be active. For those 65 minutes, sitting alone in the hallway on a bench, I could do nothing.

Finding out that I had a son, meeting him as he was transported to the NICU, walking with Denise as she was transported to the ICU - these are all memories that I take with me from that hallway.

After those 65 minutes in the hallway, I wasn't just a husband, I was a dad too. In the 525 days since then, I have grown, I have spent 69 days watching my son fight and grow in the NICU. I have seen him become a toddler. I have walked in the March for Babies. I have done many things since that time, but it to me is the center of my experience as the dad of a preemie.

Writing about this has been a good step for me. Honestly, I am still working through the emotional side of things from those 65 minutes in the hallway. Much of me is still in "hospital mode" when it comes to that experience. Being the parent of a preemie doesn't stop at a given time, it is an experience that shapes the rest of your life.

If my story has helped you understand prematurity a bit more or even piqued your interest in the topic, please visit to learn about the reality and see how you can become involved in the work surrounding prematurity.


Heather and Travis said...

What a great post! So very moving!

Ali said...

Beautiful. Parker is a miracle and blessing in every way.

Carrie said...

Thank you for sharing your perspective, Drew! Really enjoyed this guest post!

Kaleena said...

Just beautiful words coming from your husband. I am honored to have been given the chance to hear his point of view. My husband isn't very expressive and refuses to talk about our time with NICU. Smiles to you:)