Perspective is Everything
A day in the NICU
Lately, I keep seeing people complain about their day, their clients, the politicians they hate, the price of gas, or about the new little mermaid being black.
Unfortunately, I felt myself starting to go down that negative rabbit hole as well when I was on the way to the hospital.
I was thinking about how tired and sore I was and how my arthritic hands were just killing me. I just wanted to sleep in and I was second-guessing giving up a chunk of my weekend to volunteer at the hospital for the next six months. Thinking I should have picked a weekday eve instead and kept my weekends free.
But when I got to the hospital I found parking quickly, and my doubts faded away, something felt right and like I was supposed to be there.
When I got to the NICU the charge nurse was so happy to see me and she said one of the nurses could really use my help. We had an ESC baby. ESC = eat, sleep, console. These are babies that are commonly born addicted to drugs and are going through withdrawals or have other ailments, and some are also born early.
I had no idea I was about to meet the little guy I’d spend my entire shift with.
For awareness, nurses in the NICU have more than one baby to care for, and ESC babies really need constant attention. So without volunteers and with the nursing shortage, this is a ton of work for one person.
When I poked my head into the room, the nurse looked tired, she hadn’t had a break and needed to check on her other patients. She asked if I wouldn’t mind staying with him for a while because every time she tried to leave he would start crying, it was like he could sense he was alone.
I said, “of course” — put on a gown, and sat down in the chair. She handed me the little guy. He was small but very cute. And let’s be honest, not all babies are cute. But he was. I held him against my chest and when he would start to cry I would talk to him softly and gently rub his back. His little body would tremble from the pain. I stared at the monitors watching his vitals and trying to figure out what all the other lights and bars meant. I could see the nurse had her hands full with another baby because their stats would pop up on the monitors in the room I was in as well.
The nurse, doctor, and respiratory tech all popped in occasionally to check on us, they said how he wouldn’t stop crying the day before and this was the calmest they had seen him. They thanked me for the help and were so appreciative that I was there.
I’ve never held a baby that long before, let alone one that was withdrawing from drugs. Maybe he was so exhausted from the day before or maybe the respiratory tech was right and he could “feel my love” — not sure but I did my best to keep him calm and comfortable. I’ll admit, part of me was thinking “please don’t die on me”, while the other part of me was thinking about how he felt like a fighter. I could feel his strength when he would wiggle in my arms at times.
The nurse popped in to tell me to take a break and said, “ you can grab your phone so you have something to do instead of just sitting here in a dark room” but I just smiled and said, “sometimes it’s ok to just sit in a dark room without a screen to stare at, and just be present” and I told her I’d hurry back.
I held that little guy my entire shift and I didn’t think about my hands or body aching for one moment. I just wanted to keep him calm and let him know he wasn’t alone.
When I shared my day with a friend she said, “So THIS is what’s important” — and she couldn’t be more right.
These are the things that matter in this world. Perspective is everything. Be present.
And if you have the time, volunteer — for whatever cause or organization speaks to you, just do it. You are needed.