Friday, April 1, 2011

April Feature Family

Welcome to our first Ella's Halo Feature Family.  At the beginning of each month we will have a NICU family tell their story about life in the NICU with their baby.  Our hope is that by featuring different families others will have a better understanding of the difficult, roller-coaster ride many face when their baby is in the NICU.

For our first month, I thought it would be fitting to have someone who had not only one baby but two in the NICU at the same time.  And she is on our board of directors for Ella's Halo! These two are wonderful parents to their twins and are huge supporters in helping NICUs.  I am proud to introduce our April Feature Family, Tracy and Brian Krumwiede. 

Kellen and Shea Krumwiede
Written by Tracy Krumwiede
Former NICU Mommy

It's an odd thing living in a hospital. The bed rest experience, in retrospect, was really not that bad. Laying in bed for almost two straight months in the hospital comes with its perks. Watching the entire series of Sex and the City, getting served meals in bed three times a day, and unlimited heated blankets to name a few. All of these and more - distractions. If I thought about the possibility of my babies being born within the time frame the doctors anticipated (within 24 hours of my 22-week ruptured membranes - not a viable gestation) I'd go crazy. So I waited. I hoped and prayed every day that I could keep them in there just one more day. And every day God answered our prayers. Every day for 48 days. Then, on November 28, 2005 we were thrust into a new world that we could never have imagined. The NICU. No more laying in bed, being served meals daily, and watching TV shows to pass the time. Oh, and no more heated blankets either. When our babies were born, we didn't walk out the front door with a cart full of fragrant flowers, pink and blue balloons, and footprints to put in baby books. We walked from the Maternity Ward at United Hospital down the hall to the NICU at Children's Hospital - and into a world that is unimaginable to those who haven't lived there - the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Our son, Kellen, and daughter, Shea, were born on November 28, 2005 and spent 54 days in the NICU. It's such a cliche to say that it's like a rollercoaster, but let me tell you - it's like a rollercoaster. You just never know what the day will be like. You are so worried most of the time that your emotions are overwhelming. You celebrate poop and you cry over spilled milk. And by "cry" I mean "make a scene so unruly that your nurse thinks you've gone off the deep end and may never return." You file away hundreds of blue-tinted pictures because your babies are under billi-lights and who knows how long that'll last. You get excited when they take out a tube so you can actually see their little faces. You put on a brave face and try to deliver positive updates on your CaringBridge web site.

Kellen in the NICU

Every day for 54 days my husband, Brian, would drive me 20 miles to the hospital in the morning (I had a c-section so couldn't drive), drive 20 miles back to work, drive 20 miles back to the hospital after work, stay for a few hours with the babies, then drive 20 miles back home for the night. We left our house at 6:00 every morning and didn't return until at least 10:00. Then I had to get up and pump every two and a half hours and be ready to do it all over again the next day. It was exhausting to say the least. And that's just the physical exhaustion. The mental and emotional exhaustion were even worse.

But... you do what you have to do. You do the best you can as new parents being thrust into such an uncertain world where every day is a mystery and the highest of highs are oftentimes followed immediately by the lowest of lows - and vice versa. You learn to adapt and try to stay positive. You're in your own world and you have no idea what's going on around you - and that's okay. Everyone's NICU experience is a little different, although there are common themes running through all of them - the rollercoaster and bad cafeteria food to name a few. Here are a few of my highs and lows...

10 things I hate about the NICU:
1. Not being able to hold my babies until the doctors and nurses said it was safe.
2. Watching moms of full-term babies going by the NICU doors with their balloon bouquets and their babies in their arms.
3. Cafeteria food. For every meal.
4. Not knowing what will happen.
5. Worrying about germs.
6. Being away from my babies at night.
7. IV's in their heads.
8. Surgery.
9. Foam hand sanitizer.
10. Not all babies come home like mine did.

10 things I love about the NICU:
1. They saved my babies.
2. Primary nurses - thank you Deb, Charity, Barbara, and Darlene :).
3. Visitors.
4. Santa still comes - even to the NICU.
5. Singing Christmas carols to my babies.
6. Getting special surprises from donors (books, trinkets, sporting event tickets, etc.)
7. The ice machine and little round ice chunks - yum.
8. My nurse Deb helping me put both babies (still hooked up to tubes, etc.) inside their Christmas stockings and taking pictures.
9. Decorating their rooms however we wanted.
10. Surfactant. (Thanks March of Dimes)

In the end, both Kellen and Shea, despite their very early arrival and scary NICU moments, came home. On January 20, 2006, we brought our babies home and they have amazed us on a daily basis ever since. Thanks to the doctors, nurses, St. Paul Children's NICU, technology, and great organizations like the March of Dimes, Kellen and Shea have no long-term health issues related to their prematurity. We are so so blessed and grateful for their health and take so much pride in watching them learn and grow each and every day. They start Kindergarten in the fall and it's times like those when I'll look back on those scary NICU days - which seem like such a blur - and remember the miracles they are and how lucky we are to have them in our lives.

Shea in the NICU

Today I am the chairperson of the board for Ella's Halo. I am so proud to be part of such an amazing organization that helps babies and their families in the NICU every single day. As a former NICU family, we know how important and special the seemingly "little things" can be, and how special touches like the ones Ella's Halo provides can bring so much comfort in a time of so much uncertainty. Thank you to all of our friends and family who have helped us grow Ella's Halo into an organization that we are all so proud of and lucky to be a part of, and a special thank you to those of you who continue to support Ella's Halo in our efforts to provide some much-needed comfort to all the babies and families we serve.

And to any current NICU families who might read this - hang in there, stay strong, and may God bless all your little miracles.


Heidi Case said...

Beautifully written, Tracy!

Anne said...

What a wonderful idea! Beautiful story.

Julie Bixby said...

LOVE this Tracy!!!! Great idea for Ella's Halo and you did such a beautiful job kicking it off!

Kristin said...

I sit here crying... what a beautiful post. Amazing!

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