Angela Jane Lavender
The Intravenous Crown
Oils on Canvas
11" x 14"
Sitting in the Special Care Nursery at BGH I held Henry skin to skin all night long. The nurse instructed me to do so. He needed to keep his temperature up if he was going to be discharged. She praised me for doing a good job and blamed the vent for his drop in temperature. I thought that he should be able to regulate his own temperature but I couldn’t wait to take him home. I had had enough of hospitals.
I almost killed him.
Henry was two months premature weighing in at 4lbs, 11oz. Which is big for a NICU baby. I had to wake him every three hours by changing his bum and feeding him to ensure he gained plenty of precious ounces in order to reach the weight of a full term baby.
He was just 21 days old and had only been discharged from the NICU 4 days prior. It was midnight and I prepared my ears for his shrill newborn cry as I roused him to change his diaper. But he slept through it.
I laid him against my chest and unhooked my nursing bra. I pressed his nose to my areola and waited for him to sniff it out but he didn’t open his mouth. He didn’t latch. Something was wrong.
My breasts were aching and I tried to nurse him on the other side.
I lifted his arm and it went limp...
Something was very wrong.
I cried and woke my husband. He assured me that he was just tired, “Let him sleep. You need to get some rest too.”
I cried and consulted my paperwork. “Where are my nurses? The monitors? The doctors? I need help.” I thought.
I held him skin to skin and tried to get some sleep. I will try again at 3am.
He barely woke then. He barely latched. His mouth lazily grazed my breast. I squirted some milk by hand expressing it into his gaping mouth. He swallowed.
I called my mom after Jeremy went to work. I didn’t know what to do. I had an appointment at the Child and Infant Clinic at BGH that afternoon to check his iron levels. “Should I go to emerge? I don’t want to miss my appointment? Should I wait?”
I was planning to go to emerge but then Henry freaked out and cried when I tried to put him in the car seat! “Finally!” I thought. We were relieved! I pulled him out immediately and comforted him. He nursed, but it was very short lived and then he went back to sleep. It was enough to encourage me to wait.
At 3pm I arrived at the clinic. I expressed my concerns to the nurse. She took his vitals and didn’t seem very worried... until she took his blood. She pricked his foot. but he didn’t even flinch. She was having difficulty getting a sample so she pricked him again, and again.
Not the slightest whimper, not a single movement.
“What have I done?” I thought. I covered my mouth and choked back tears.
She went to get the Doctor.
I cried more. I rocked him. I took my top off, held him against my body and begged him to forgive me. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. Please let me nurse you. I’m sorry. They are going to take care of you. Please wake up. Please squeeze my hand.
After Dr Piteau saw him he was admitted and they immediately took him down the hall to start an IV. They wouldn’t let me stay.
I pleaded, “I can comfort him. I can nurse him if he cries. Please.”
They insisted I leave so that they could hold him down and do it quickly.
By this point my husband had arrived. We held each other rooms away from Henry. Our hands balled into fists and our jaws clenched as they struggled to find a vein. We could hear him screaming at the top of his lungs and wailing in pain. He needed us.
His tiny veins were too small, so they eventually inserted the IV into his head and brought him to us. They put him back in an incubator. Motionless. Just like the day I met him.
The staff ran tests and determined that he needed more sufficient care. KGH was full and he was intimated and transferred to CHEO.
When we all arrived, the CHEO staff had to remove the IV in his head and do it again. The sounds that came out of him were excruciating.
This was my fault.
I did this to him.
I wanted to blame the SCN nurse, my husband, my mom, Dr. Piteau...but the truth that makes my skin crawl and is likely the underlying issue of my PTSD is that it was my fault. I KNEW something was wrong. My instincts urged me to go to the hospital sooner and I didn’t want to go back there. I didn’t want to take steps backward.
And it almost cost him his life.