Sunday, July 17, 2016. Family and friends told me this would be the greatest day of my life but I didn’t have that feeling. I was scared, confused, and anxious. Our son wasn’t due until November 6th yet here we were at only 24 weeks gestation, in an operating room for an emergency c-section, and given only minutes to decide if we want the medical team to do everything possible to try and give our son the best possible chance to survive.
At 2:05 pm weighing just 1lb 7oz, Alister was born. I didn’t see him get pulled away because in an instant he was taken to the far end of the room with NICU staff waiting for the handoff. I couldn’t see him. All I could see was nurses and doctors huddled around in a semi-circle, heads down, feverishly working on getting Alister intubated and stable. The wait for any news was nerve-racking. I was finally asked to come over quick to see my son for the first time. The portable oxygen tank he was hooked up to was low and they needed to get Alister switched over to a more permanent feed. I went over, looked at my son and instantly felt this warmth run through my body. I felt this instant bond; a deep love that I could never explain. If you have a child you know the feeling; it completely engulfs your body. I only got to see Alister for about 30 seconds before they had to take him down to the NICU. We were told they would contact us when we could come see him. It wouldn’t be until later that evening, almost 8:00pm, before we could go see our son in the NICU.
Walking into the NICU I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. Seeing my firstborn covered in plastic, lying motionless inside an isolette, surrounded by machines with alarms sounding; IV lines in the top of his head, tubes running into his lungs and stomach; foam covering his ears and cloth glasses covering his eyes; bruises covering his tiny body from head to toe. This is not what I was expecting. I felt so helpless, a feeling I would become all too familiar with.
Meeting with the doctors, we were told Alister’s journey in the NICU would be long and a roller coaster ride with many ups and downs. Because of his gestational age, he had a 50% chance of survival (but we were told his odds were slightly better at 60% given the advanced care they can provide at RUH). These numbers didn’t sit well with me. Anytime we were given new odds for different risks I would just think they were just numbers and that’s not Alister. He is a fighter. He’s my ‘Lil Warrior’. The meaning of Alister is ‘warrior or defender of people’ so from day one before I left the NICU each night I would say the same thing to him,”You keep fighting son, you’re my lil warrior. I love you”.
It would be 32 days before I could hold my son for the first time. He required oxygen support for his entire NICU stay and would come home on low flow oxygen. We were told the day after he was born that a head ultrasound showed evidence of PVL, which can be indicative of Cerebral Palsy. A head ultrasound the following week still showed the PVL and then a brain bleed, which thankfully did not progress past a grade one bleed. Alister would battle a urinary tract infection and pneumonia, multiple collapsed lungs and lesions that showed up on his kidneys and liver. He battled everything he came up against like the little warrior he was and proved just how strong he was.
After 110 days, on November 4, 2016, Alister was discharged from the NICU. But that was not the end of his journey. The waiting has always been the most difficult thing to deal with; all of the unknowns and what his future holds. Given his extreme prematurity, Alister has had many follow-up appointments to monitor his development. From attending physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech sessions at the Kinsmen Children’s Center, to numerous doctor’s appointments with his family doctor and pediatrician, Alister has had many health care professionals assist in his post-NICU journey. We also had the opportunity to explore transformational movement lessons with Anat Baniel Method practitioners which have greatly aided in getting Alister to the point he’s at today. We’ve had a few scares along the way, but thankfully nothing came of them.
Today, Alister is a bright, energetic little boy. He loves playing with bubbles and riding his bike outside. He also enjoys helping in the kitchen and making coffee’s in the morning for mom and dad. Recently, we welcomed a baby girl to the family. We weren’t sure how Alister would handle this but he has embraced his role as a big brother and enjoys helping take care of his little sister.
Our success is warranted to the tremendous support BloomNICU receives from local community through corporate sponsorship and from the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan. A variety of sponsorship packages are available.