In the delivery suite, Elijah was cleaned up, weighed (2.4kg. not bad!) and measured. A pediatrician came to see him as well. Elijah was breathing on his own, but he was breathing rapidly and it looked like it was a struggle. The doctor gave him oxygen through a mask, and they had to take him to the NICU.
I was relieved that we had reached the hospital and Elijah was in good hands. The gynae came soon after, and was also shocked that I had given birth barely 2 hours after she had seen me and said that I should just “rest at home”. I was also her first patient who delivered in a car! She did some checks, stitched up the minor tears, and I was soon allowed to go to the ward. I was discharged the following day.
Elijah’s adventure lasted much longer than mine.
He was under observation for his breathing, because although he could do it on his own without any assistance, it was getting more and more difficult. The pediatrician felt it was going to leave him completely exhausted. So they started giving oxygen.
Over the next day or so, the medical team tried to reduce Elijah’s dependence on the oxygen that the machines provided, but his SpO2 (the amount of oxygen in his blood) would drop each time, and there was little progress.
Since Elijah was in the NICU, there were very strict visiting hours. EJ and I would visit him a few times a day, going back and forth from the hospital to home, in between work. I was also busy expressing milk to establish a good supply. All of the milk had to be frozen because Elijah could only be fed milk once his breathing was stabilised.
It was heartbreaking to see such a little human being connected to so many tubes and machines. We could see his chest heaving, as he tried to breathe. He was such an amazing fighter.
The team of doctors decided that progress was too slow, and Elijah’s lungs needed a little jumpstart to start working as they should. He was given 2 doses of lung surfactant, which finally eased his breathing and started him on the road to being discharged. Lung surfactant is derived from calf lung surfactant extract. So, Elijah will be as strong as a bull!
Finally, after about 4 days of just being on an IV drip, he was given some milk by tube feeding- a measly 3ml! But the amount rapidly increased as the days went on. And he got stronger, and started to breathe with less help.
Every morning and evening, EJ and I would wait for a phone call from the doctor, giving us updates about what procedures had been done, and how Elijah was progressing. When he could drink from a milk bottle on day 7, we knew he would be home soon.
Elijah was discharged after 9 days in NICU.
In the past decade, the national rate of preterm births has gone up, from 7.2 per cent to 9.5 per cent, despite low birth rates over the same period. Reasons are not always known. There are now support groups at NUH, KKH and SGH for parents of preemies. There are Facebook groups like this one as well. The good news is that, with early nutrition and enrichment through physical and intellectual stimulation in the home environment, most preemies show little evidence of their bumpy start to life. It is advisable for us parents of preemies to monitor our child’s development and make sure they are meeting the appropriate milestones.
Elijah still has to go for check ups every 6-9 months for some minor issues that require follow up. Even these should be coming to an end by the time he is about 2 years old.
Today, Elijah is a happy 7.5 month old. He is an absolute angel baby. He sleeps well, feeds well, and is always ready to smile – even when he was having a bout of flu recently! I’ve been incredibly blessed. Grow up strong and healthy, wise and kind, my little one!