Thursday, March 4, 2010

The meaning of 4 weeks

I got my first email account in 1995 (Compuserve, anyone?)... in the subsequent 15 years, I have gotten several thousand forwards. I'll admit that I am one of the people who deletes most forwards without even reading them. Sorry!

Its a rare occasion when I open a forward. But strangely, shortly after Will and Luke were born, I got a forward that talked about the meaning of time. I opened it, and though I didn't keep it, the forward still sticks in my head. Maybe you've seen it, its the one that discusses the meaning of decreasing units of time by relating them to a mother who has either had a premature infant or lost a child. If you want to know the meaning of a day, ask a mother who has...

Well if you want to know the meaning of 4 weeks, ask me!

Cart is now 33 weeks gestation. Woo hoo! Sometime between 33 and 34 weeks, baby lungs become fully developed. This means that if Cart were born in the next week, he would not need any breathing assistance.

Will and Luke were born at 29 weeks gestation. I know that 4 weeks doesn't seem like a long time. But the lung development that occurs in those 4 weeks is the difference between breathing assistance and the whole slew of risks associated with it, and breathing like a full term baby.

Considering a baby must be able to breathe on their own to be released from the NICU, entering the world already having that ability is a huge plus! To put it in perspective, a photo montage...

The boys had extreme difficulty breathing on their own when they were born. The photo above is 3-lb baby Luke at 4 days old. He was on a ventilator, which essentially breathed for him. Being on a ventilator for a long time can have a lot of negative side effects. Thankfully, by the end of the boys' second week of life (31 weeks gestation), they were moved off of the ventilator and on to...

CPAP - Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. Anyone with diagnosed sleep apnea has a much larger CPAP next to their bed. Anyway, the CPAP is one step closer to not needing any breathing assistance. With the continuous positive pressure, it basically was there to remind the boys to breathe. We were sad to be able to only see such a small portion of their face while they were on the CPAP, but happy that they were progressing. They were both on CPAP for about a week, or through 32 weeks gestation. Luke needed more breathing assistance than Will pretty regularly.

At 32 weeks gestation, we were told that the boys needed neurosurgery to put VP shunts in their brains. We thought that the surgery would be a step back from their recent breathing successes, but were so happy when Will returned from his shunt placement surgery with only nasal cannula in his nose! No more CPAP! We could see our beautiful boy! Nasal cannula provide a very small amount of oxygen and air pressure through the nose. Anytime anyone on TV is in the hospital, these are the tubes that you see in their noses.

Within a week of shunt surgery (33 weeks gestation), Will was breathing on his own 100% of the time! At Easter that year (early April - 34 weeks gestation), Luke was moved off of CPAP and put onto nasal cannula. Luke remained on nasal cannula for minor breathing assistance until 37 weeks gestation - he still needed that little bit of assistance to get him over the hump. But it is because he did continue to need this assistance that he has some lung issues today (see Our Own Winter Wallop post).

So, as you can see by this chronology, the ability for a baby to breathe on their own shortly after birth is a really big deal!! This is another big milestone for us!

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