Family Recognizes CMC NICU Nurses for Neonatal Nurses Day

September 4, 2018 marked 10-months for our sweet Timberleigh! It’s crazy to think that a whole year has almost gone by! 253 days in the hospital and 2 months on our own with our sweet babe. What a wild ride it has been!

Going into this pregnancy I knew of the NICU but I didn’t really understand what it really entailed. I just knew that they took care of sick babies, it makes me sad but also makes me laugh now at how incredibly ignorant I was. This whole experience has been amazing to say the least. Being that September is NICU awareness month, I thought I’d share what I’ve been through these last 10 months.

After a less than desirable 24 week pregnancy I went in for my routine checkup in Butte at St. James. Shortly after we arrived my concerned doctor came in to tell us that I’d be headed to Missoula for some over night testing if my blood pressure didn’t go down. They had found protein in my urine so I was sent home and put on bedrest for three days and asked to come back for another check-up. My next checkup, three days later, wasn’t any better. In fact, it was much worse – blood pressure was 194/114, baby was fine via ultrasound but I was not. Off to Missoula we went. I knew that something was up when I asked if we could go home for a change of clothes and toothbrush and the doctors response was, “How fast can you get to Missoula safely?” Roughly two hours later I checked in to my room. Almost immediately the nurses started me on an IV of Magnesium sulfate to prevent stroke and/or seizures due to preeclampsia.

That night I met my doctor and his wife who entered my room dressed as a pirate and the queen of hearts.😂 It just so happened to be the hospital employee Halloween party. Anyway, we chatted for a few minutes and then I got the news that rocked my world. “I’m extremely sorry to have to tell you this, but you will not be leaving here until your baby is born.” Wait. I’m just over halfway through this pregnancy. My baby isn’t due until February! What, how, no! I was just fine last week!

After 9 days of trying to regulate my blood pressure and monitor baby, my kidneys were failing so emergency c-section was in order. After 6 days on “Mag” and over 900mg of bp meds a day,I was feeling worse than the worst hangover I’d ever had… They took me off for a day to see how my body reacted. I was able to shower with the help of my love and barely made it back to bed. In went the catheter and they started the Mag again. 3 days of “today’s the day” and sleepless nights of chasing baby on the monitor it was time! It was finally time! After 9 days of laying in bed only getting up to use the bathroom. I remember them putting the oxygen mask on and then waking up to sit up for my epidural but not much after that. I woke up later that night sick from the morphine and fentanyl but was able to go see my baby. I was wheeled in my bed down the hall into the NICU to see my tiny girl. In a blur and still half conscious I saw a glowing box with all kinds of machines and tubes. The nurse drew back the isolette cover and there she was! The figure of a tiny human with all her tiny fingers and toes. Wearing little sunglasses to block the bili light and her nano preemie huggies. She was alive and fighting! Her skin was dark from the bili light but I could clearly see her heart beating away through her chest. The most surreal moment of my life. Nothing mattered after that moment. Nothing but that sweet little fighter.

After 3 days in recovery because of my blood pressure, I was moved to the mother/baby unit. I was scared, confused, still recovering from surgery and still unaware of what was next. The day I was released, Zach, Timberleighs father, moved our camper from our work site in Williston, ND to the hospital in Missoula, MT. We spent the next three months in the CMC NICU where Timber has laser eye surgery for ROP (retinopathy of prematurity) due to being on such a high dose of oxygen so young. We met some of the most amazing people on earth! The true warriors of this story! The people who not only kept our sweet little girl alive, but loved her every hour of every single day. After two tries on the oscelating ventilator, and 4 failed extubations due to scar tissue from severe BPD (bronchopulmonary displasia), from being intubated at birth. Her team felt it was time to make the trip to Seattle Children’s for a tracheotomy.

The news no parents want to hear. Seattle was a little bit of a culture shock for me coming from small town Montana. Anyway, her team there was unbelievable. It took them a month of studying and tweaking her vent settings before they made their big moves, but once they did they were able to successfully extubate Timberleigh! Once she was extubated they moved her to a bubble CPAP nasal cannula. She spent a month on CPAP before being air transferred via LifeFlight back to Community Children’s pediatrics inpatient unit. With the help of steroids, her team felt she was strong enough to move to high flow wall oxygen. She was then weaned down to low flow and eventually down to where she is now at .5 liters. This all took roughly another two months.

We have been able to keep Timber off the ventilator for over five months so far. She got to come home for the first time July 5th after 244 days. Our sweet girl is proof that NICU nurses are super heroes! I have no idea where I’d be if it wasn’t for them, the amazing doctors and of course the respiratory therapists, radiology techs, the lab, everyone!!! Even sweet Addy in housekeeping. These people became our family. Along with all the other families fighting next to us.

Our once 1 lb 2 oz baby is now 15 pounds, 25 inchs and babbling like crazy! Her oral aversion to bottles and pacifiers is still strong but this rainbow baby is eating some baby food now! She also loves sucking on jerkey and bacon. Rolls from side to side, nearly sits up without help, and just about fits in size 6 months at 10 months, 7 months adjusted. We are still working on feeding and will have some kind of feeding tube until she is able to take in enough nutrients orally to sustain without.

We thank God for our chance to be parents everyday. This little girl is a rainbow baby and a warrior!

Whitnye Wilkinson