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Emmie's story   — Pam , Philadelphia, PA, USA

Emmie was placed on a respirator at 11 minutes of age

We found out about the pregnancy late January of 1998. We had just moved to Philadelphia from Boston. Things were so unsettled but soon enough the excitement of another baby for our family set in. Mid-pregnancy "the pregnancy" became "Emily" as we found out our new baby was going to be a girl! By the end of that summer we were all getting very anxious to meet our new Emily. Finally on September 28th, 11 days earlier than my due date, my water broke.

Emmie was placed on a respirator at 11 minutes of age. Several nurses and doctors were monitoring her. I don't remember much of this time of the story. After 7 hours of working to stabilize Emmie, Dr. Harris felt it was time to transport her to CHOP. We were told to kiss her good-bye, as no one knew how the transport itself would effect Emmie. As they wheeled our little baby away, I crumbled; feeling like my heart was about to break into a million pieces. Mike took me back to my room, where I sat and cried as I heard an ambulance siren trailing outside the window.

It was hard staying at the hospital that night. The nurses tried to keep me from having a roommate. All I heard through the evening was happy grandparents and other friends and relatives coming to visit healthy, crying babies. I didn't sleep that night, the cry of sleeping babies constantly reminding me that my baby was not with me, instead, she was fighting for her life.

The next morning my OB/GYN came in to see me with "good news". She said my culture for Group B Strep came back positive, so at least we knew what we were fighting.

Mike spent the night at CHOP with Emmie, ever vigil at her cribette side. He came back to pick me up from the delivering hospital so I could be discharged and join him at CHOP. At this point our children had no idea what was going on, just that their baby sister was born.

As I first walked into the NICU I noticed it was a very quiet and sad place. There was no noise except for the hushed, efficient nurses and the many, many monitors. No babies were crying. Mike took me to Emmie's side and I saw for the first time, my precious baby girl hidden beneath many IV's and wires leading to her own many, many monitors. I cried. I cried because Emmie was alive, and she was pink! And I cried because Emmie was so quiet, so still, so sick. The doctors and nurses tried their best to explain to us all that was going on with Emmie. The pneumonia, the sepsis, the low blood pressure and of course the respiratory failure. I know I was numb, I wasn't able to understand much of anything they were telling me. I trusted Mike to understand everything that was going on, and I shut down. No emotions, no feelings, no anything. Back home, Mike tried to tell the kids that Emmie was sick. Caitlin knew there was more to the story and seemed to need more information. The nurses in the NICU had taken several pictures of Emmie with a Polaroid, and Mike showed the "better" ones to Caitlin.

The first time I came home from the hospital was very hard. Moms are not supposed to come home empty handed. I should have had my baby with me, happily showing her to her sister and brothers. There should have been banners outside our house that read, "IT'S A GIRL!". There should have been some fanfare. Instead, I came home and cried, again. It was hard seeing my healthy, cheerful children and hard to tell them such sad things about their sister. And I felt guilt. I LEFT my baby to be cared for by "strangers"; my tiny, newborn baby was left in a room with four other babies and strangers. I found being home to be too hard right now, too frustrating, and too sad. One particularly hard morning I broke down and sobbed and sobbed then prayed to God for strength and patience to get me through this ordeal. Mike and I held our Emmie for the first time when she was four days old. The nurses had to carefully remove whatever monitors they could, temporarily. With the respirator tube still in, and IV's all over her, I held my beautiful Emily. And I cried. She was real, for what seemed like the first time in days, Emily was real. I kissed her over and over, and called her name softly, just loving the way she felt in my arms, however brief the visit was to be.

Mike took pictures and then we switched positions. He was holding his new baby girl for the very first time too! At that moment, I started to feel again.

After 6 days in the NICU, Emily finally was taken off the respirator! This was also the day we heard for the first time a real, albeit short and hoarse, CRY! What a huge day of joy for us! In all our glee we still noticed the dark cloud hanging over the unit that day. Another baby had died after fighting all 6 weeks of it's life. Things were still in perspective for us.

The next day Emmie was taken off of her blood pressure medication. Another very big goal! Things were really going well for us now, and we were assured that Emmie would be OK! Her recovery from this point on was very rapid, and each day it seemed like yet another monitor or IV was removed from Emily.

At 8 days of age, Emily was given her first real food, my stored breast milk. After knowing that she could handle my milk and still recover well, I was permitted to nurse her. Emily was 10 days old the first time I nursed, and she was great! This was the day, the exact time that Emily and I bonded. I will never forget that incredible feeling of bonding love.

Emily soon became the sweetheart of the NICU. She was the only baby with pinchable cheeks and a very bright prognosis. The only thing that kept us from bringing her home now was waiting for her 14 days of antibiotics to be over. On Tuesday, October 13, 1998, Emily had her last dose of antibiotics shot into her vein, as her last available IV had given out just hours earlier. She cried one last time in the NICU with that shot. Shortly before Emily's discharge her doctor, our angel doctor, Dr. Harris, came to say goodbye. We gave her a gift of a dozen, white long-stemmed roses to symbolize innocence saved! (After all, how do you thank someone for saving your child's life?) Of course, we cried. The doctor cried, and the nurses cried. What pure joy and relief we felt. Caitlin, Tommy and Mitch were all there to be with their sister. What a wonderful way to bring our beautiful baby home.

Today, Emily is a very healthy, happy and spoiled baby! She is so loved by all of us and, in turn, we feel her love for us. Each smile, each laugh, and every hug from Emily is a true gift to us, a gift that not one of us will ever forget.

Emily's Mom (Pam)
9/29/98 GBS survivor

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