Monthly Archives: February 2009

More Video

So, Ellis Jane surpassed 3 lbs. two nights ago.  She’s now up to 3 lb. 2 oz., and continues to do well.  There are some complications with the infection that she had about a week ago (a little bump on her shoulder) but the doctors aren’t overly concerned.  And, the bump doesn’t seem to be bothering her at all.  Basically, she’s on another course of antibiotics until we get more information.

We’re hoping and praying that she’ll come home this next month.  A couple milestones we’re waiting for:

— The 4 pound mark: she’ll get to come out of the temperature controlled isolette and be in a “crib.”  We don’t have any isolettes at home right now, so this needs to happen before she comes home.  Hopefully, she’ll start gaining about an ounce a day from here on out.

— Breastfeeding/bottle feeding more consistently.

— Since she’s off caffeine (which is more than I can say about myself), she needs no brady or apnic events (heart rate dropping or 20 sec. of no breathing, respectively) for five days before she can come home.  She’s doing well so far (went off caffeine last Thursday, though doctors say it stays in their system for about a week, so we’ll have to wait for about another week before we know anything for sure).  

— We hope that she doesn’t have to come home on oxygen.  As she breastfeeds more, she can get tired out and that can cause some breathing probs.  So, hopefully that won’t delay her homecoming or put her on a nasal cannula.

Finally, a little video we shot yesterday…


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Valentine’s Day Update

So the phone rings this morning as I’m eating breakfast.  I think, “Don’t get it; take time for yourself.”  But, I get up.  Our caller ID reads “St. Joseph’s” and I pick up.  

“This is Doreen from the NICU; I’m looking for Gabe or Brooke.”

My heart misses a beat, then thuds hard.

“This is Gabe.”

“I’m calling about Ellis.”  Her voice races: is she nervous?  Did she have too much coffee?  Is she just a fast talker?  “You know the pick line we put in, that there was some redness around.”  

On Monday we signed a consent to put a pick line in — basically an IV running near her heart, in order to get nutrition to her a little better.  We asked tons of questions before we signed.  We felt confident in the decision.

Doreen continues.  “It seems like that redness has gotten a little worse.  You know we took the pick line out last night.”  We had been there as the doctors talked about taking the pick line out, then cried in the car.  “We want to put Ellis on some antibiotics and do some blood work.  We want to make sure she doesn’t have an infection.”

This is what it’s like to have a daughter in the NICU.  There are tremendously beautiful moments: moments where we appreciate where God has led us, the anxiety and deep, deep fear of February 5.  There are horrific moments: moments when my heart hammers and when I wonder what will happen to our daughter.  

Doreen went on to say that her breathing (still off any support) is great, and her digestion is great.  They continue to up her feeds (she’s up to 18ml, baby!) and, symptomatically, she’s progressing.  The red spot did seem tender, as she was a bit more fussy yesterday.  I tell Doreen this and she says thanks, you know her best and I sit with this realization: we know her better than anyone else, and we know so little of her.  

I love her so, so much.

Brooke is progressing, too, albeit with some hiccups.  Her incision isn’t healing quite right (perhaps due to the Junior Mint I accidentally dropped into her uterus), so we go back on Tuesday to check on her.  The good news: today is Valentine’s Day, and we’re celebrating with sushi.  Brooke can finally eat it, now that she’s not prego, and we’ve celebrated every V-Day since we’ve been together with sushi (the last few years we’ve made it ourselves, but that takes a little too much time and energy right now).  

So, we have that going for us, which is nice.

I’ll close with another Thank you — we’re so appreciative of notes, flowers, gifts, food, calls…and everything else.  We’re sorry we haven’t responded much, but we love to get comments and encouragement.  

Finally, please keep praying for both Brooke and Ellis.  We have a long and arduous road, a beautiful grace-filled road, and we need strength and help to travel it.  


Brooke feeding Ellis...she's beginning to use a bottle!

Ellis Jane under the lights

Brooke and Ellis

Beautiful Girls

Ellis working on that pacifier

Dad with Ellis

P.S.  Ellis means “The Lord is my God,” and fits in with the “-el” sound that a number of family members have.  “Jane” means “My aunt is the coolest person ever.”  

More video coming soon…


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A Birth Story…

The BabeFor those of you interested, here’s a rough timeline of events from yesterday.  Wednesday night, Brooke didn’t sleep well as she suffered from shortness of breath.  She scheduled a doctor’s appointment for Thursday afternoon.  Also, she went to her first hour class, since she was being observed.

Thursday, 3:00 pm: Brooke wakes up from her nap, has a cookie and milk, and gets ready for her doctor’s appointment.  We talk about me going along, and decide I don’t really need to go.  She’ll probably just get some antibiotics.  

3:40 pm: Brooke calls.  She forgot her I.D.  The clinic lets her in anyway.  In retrospect, a huge, huge decision.  If she hadn’t been able to check in, who knows what could’ve happened.  

4:28 pm: Brooke texts me.  Her blood pressure is 150/98.  I get online and begin to research preeclampsia.  The first rush of fear, but a small one.

4:36: Brooke’s text tells me she hasn’t yet had her chest x-rayed.  But she’s gained 10 pounds just in the last week.  Another sign of preeclampsia.

5:00: Brooke calls.  The doctor at the clinic went upstairs to talk to the OB.  She says we need to go to the hospital.  Brooke, sans her wallet, drives home on an empty tank of gas.  I pray for her safety; I pray she’ll get home without running out of gas.  Thinking we could be admitted at the hospital and spend the night, I begin to pack a bag.  I just pack the bare essentials: we probably won’t need to spend the night.  They’ll control Brooke’s BP.  Worst case scenario: maybe she’ll be on bed rest for awhile.

I call my dad and let him know we won’t make it down to the Springs on Friday, as we had planned.

5:15: I give Eric Ochocki a call.  We won’t be able to meet them on Saturday evening, either.  I ask for prayer.  

5:30: Brooke gets home, we begin the drive to St. Joseph’s.  Downtown.  During rush hour.

6:30: After an interminable drive, we reach the hospital.  Brooke has been complaining of increasing discomfort.  She feels nauseous, her stomach hurts.  

*From here on out, all times very approximate.

We are checked into the hospital, and the nurse begins taking Brooke’s vitals.  Her BP is a little higher.  

7:00: An interminable Q&A, covering everything imaginable: family history, patient history, amount of pain, favorite pets, etc.

7:30: Our doctor, Dr. Celnik, is on call tonight.  A familiar face to take care of us.  She comes in and tells us that things are looking like preeclampsia.  They need to take urine and blood to determine.  Also, with Brooke’s labored breathing, she is calling an internal medicine doctor.

8:00: Brooke’s urine has high levels of protein.  Her kidneys aren’t functioning as they should, a sign of preeclampsia.  We are feeling increasingly anxious and scared.  Brooke begins visibly shaking, due to anxiety.  She won’t stop until 2 am.  The doctor says that they want to keep the baby in Brooke as long as possible, but are worried about the health of the mother.  Both of us wonder what “as long as possible” means.  We tell each other that we can’t have the baby tonight.  We’re just not ready.

8:30: An EKG of Brooke’s heart comes back clean.  Brooke is given a steroid shot: steroids will help develop the baby’s lungs, but take 48 hours to really work.  

9:00: The doctor says they want to wait to deliver for at least 48 hours (due to the steroids).  We’re increasingly nervous.  It looks like delivery may be the only option.  Our baby is so young: 30 weeks and 6 days.  We are transferred to our own room, officially admitted.  Brooke continues visibly trembling.  Everyone keeps asking her if she’s cold.  “I’m nervous,” she replies.

9:30: Our doctor comes in; more lab results are back.  She says that we’re going to deliver tonight.  But more than this, she says she’s very concerned about Brooke’s heart and has ordered an echo-cardiogram.  The biggest worry is that Brooke will experience heart failure during the C-section.  The doctor tries to reassure us that ‘heart failure’ is something the hospital deals with regularly.  We’re both raw.  

9:45: Brooke Guikema and Lexi are on their way up, as confirmed by Sean Matthews.  We’re so thankful for friends who will do anything for us.  

10:00: The cardiologist comes in to do the echo.  Brooke continues shaking uncontrollably.  He takes a lot of images of Brooke’s heart.  The NICU nurse comes in, telling me what the next couple of months will look like.  The primary worries to the baby’s health are brain development and lung development.  A premature baby’s brain can easily get overstimulated, and there are things we can do in the future to help her brain develop.  They’ll put her on pressurized oxygen — C-PAP — to help inflate lungs that will have a tendency to stick together, like a wet balloon.  It’s going to be a long road.

10:15: The echo looks good.  The anesthesiologist comes in to take Brooke’s vitals and tell her what will happen during the surgery.  An older gentlemen, he inspires confidence.  “I have to tell you some bad possibilities.  But they won’t happen.”  The clean echo gives hope: heart failure looks less likely.  Yet, her BP is still hovering around 150/100.  Mom, Dad, and Janae are on their way up.

I am amazed that Brooke’s shaking hand can sign the consent forms.

10:30: I call the Stivers, asking for our camera.  They say they’re on their way.  

10:45: We’re moving to the OR.  Lexi and Brooke Guikema are here.

10:50: The anesthesiologist begins the spinal tap.  I sit close to Brooke; she leans forward onto me.  We talk and hope together.  Brooke is still shaking uncontrollably.  

11:05: Nurses begin to prep for surgery.

11:15: The doctors begin the surgery.  Brooke is awake, but can’t see what’s happening.  From my vantage point, I can see everything.  The doctors cut into her.  They wrench apart her stomach muscles, putting all their weight into it.  They continue cutting into the uterus.  

11:23: Ellis Jane makes her appearance.  The umbilical cord is wrapped tightly around her neck — twice — and they have to cut it off.  She’s beautiful.  She’s so, so beautiful.

The doctors wipe her off, and begin to take her vitals.  She has the most plaintive and inspiring cry.  Brooke is still shaking (from the chest up) and the doctors begin to stitch her.  Watching Ellis, I only get glimpses of the blood that Brooke’s losing, which seems like a lot.  Of course, this happens to all women giving birth.  

Brooke gets to kiss Ellis before they take her to the NICU.

11:37: They move the baby to the NICU.  The Stivers have arrived.  I grab our camera and begin to take pictures.  I am happy.  I am so, so happy.  


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