41 weeks 3 days, 3780 grams

The birth of our baby boy was an even greater life-­changing event than I could have ever anticipated. I had a healthy and unremarkable pregnancy. During my drug-­free labour in a birthing pool my waters broke and meconium was visible. I was immediately pulled out of the water and delivered him. He cried as he was placed in my arms. With an APGAR of 9/10 I was delighted (and exhausted) as I held him close to my chest. 

Within a  couple of minutes he changed colour to a maroon red, and went limp -­ I could feel him slipping away. He was whisked away from me and that was the last time I held him for nearly two more weeks. He needed resuscitation, cardiac massage and free flow oxygen while we waited for the NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) retrieval team to come and pick him up from Birthcare and take him to the NICU at Auckland Hospital.

Our newborn baby was critically ill. He had multiple organ failure, persistent pulmonary hypotension, meconium aspiration syndrome, hypotension and sepsis. Surfactant was administered into his lungs and he was put on an oscillating ventilator which pumped 600 breaths per minute into his little chest -­ 10 puffs a second.

As the days passed he did not improve -­ we were waiting for the elusive corner to be turned.   At 6 days of age Vinnie was transferred to Starship PICU (Paediatric Intensive Care Unit) for ECMO -­ a heart and lung bypass.  Thankfully he was not quite at the stage of requiring ECMO and was treated for a further week on the oscillating ventilator.  Fortunately I was able to move into Ronald McDonald house to be near him. Finally he found the corner and slowly made his way around it. I was able to have my first hold of our baby, plus tubes, at age 2 weeks. It wasn’t until  he was 3 weeks old that I was able to breastfeed him.

We were transferred back to NICU for Vinnie to stabilise enough to come home. But then we met another hurdle. It was discovered that a blood-­clot had developed  from the central line that fed the 10 medications he was on into his blood stream. The blood clot was of major concern. It was lodged in the entranceway to his kidneys and caused him to be hypertensive.

In all the weeks he was in hospital we experienced incredible support from the NICU team. I was able to stay at the hospital so I could be there for him and be involved in his care with the medical team. Amazingly the only thing we had to pay for during this time was the parking.

During this time our 5 year old son, Theo, started school. It was a very hard time for him too -­ he didn’t understand why we couldn’t come home as I had told him we would.  Thankfully my mum and sister, both of whom we relied on heavily during this time, were there to give us the tremendous support we needed and kept the household together.

We brought Vinnie home close to a month after he was born. He was on oxygen, attached to a tank by a 12 metre tube. I was injecting him twice daily to dissolve the clot and he also had an oral hypertensive medication. We were visited most days by the NICU home-care nurses to take his blood pressure and test his blood weekly to ensure his medications were okay. We did overnight saturation runs -­ wrapping a probe to his foot and monitoring his oxygen saturation levels for 12 hours to ensure he was coping with breathing on his own. 

After three months of much love and care Vinnie was finally off all drugs and oxygen and has continued to thrive. He was in NICU (level 3 intensive care) for 4 weeks – at a cost of $10,000/day.

He is our healthy Hero!