I remember driving into Atlanta that cold Monday morning to talk to a myriad of doctors. I had never seen a hospital so big. We wound our way around their parking garage, trying to find any open spot. We were already late for the first appointment with the cardiologist.
Finally, we rushed through the huge glass doors and asked a receptionist where we should sign in. By the time we entered the cardiology section, we were over an hour behind schedule already.
“Get stuck in traffic?” The nurse smiled as she showed us into the ultrasound room where I would have another fetal echo. Kenny chuckled and agreed that we should have left a bit earlier.
Then the technician entered. I rubbed my palms against my maternity skirt, and my stomach churned from my light breakfast. I lay on my back with eyes fixed on the screen, watching my sweet baby’s heart beat. Maybe this cardiologist would come to the same conclusion that the one in our hometown did. Maybe Hadassah had a chance.
The cardiologist strolled in once the ultrasound finished, shoulders high and blank expression. She explained that the ventricles were indeed slightly enlarged and that our baby’s chances were very poor. We nodded. Nothing that I hadn’t heard before. What would the rest of the day show us?
The nurses led us to our next meeting with their surgeon. On the way, they briefed us on our appointment schedule. Meet with the surgeon, then the NICU director, and finally the MRI technicians, squeezing in lunch somewhere in the middle.
“The prognosis for ectopia cordis is low, but I don’t see why you shouldn’t try. If you deliver in Florida, she will not survive, but at least here she has a chance. I don’t want to give you false hope, but doctors have seen recent success with surgeries in cases like these.”
The surgeon then outlined a basic plan of action based on the problems that normally accompany ectopia cordis. “The main issue is whether her lungs are forming correctly. If she can breathe normally, then we can try to cover her organs.”
Hope. My heart brimmed with joy. Now we just needed to see Hadassah’s specific problems and act on them.
While the nurses were figuring out when we should eat lunch, my nausea settled in. We should eat soon. Kenny had to explain that I needed more time to eat because my stomach couldn’t handle a lot at once. The nurses took us to the cafeteria, and we dove into some delicious chicken sandwiches.
Next, off to the NICU. The director gestured toward the different equipment that they used, explaining what they were. We would have to wash our hands often and wear masks if we had any slight illness. Many of the babies were hidden in incubators, blankets spread out over the top from their loving families.
“In this section of the NICU, there is one nurse per baby. We take close care of these little ones.” The director handed us a bag with bottles in it for nursing and pages of helpful information.
I could only hope that Hadassah would make it this far. If I delivered here, I would have to labor in a nearby hospital, and Hadassah would be transported to the Children’s Hospital. That part made me nervous. Minutes were precious in her little life.
And I knew that all of this talk was superficial until we knew exactly all of the problems that we were dealing with. We would know soon.
by Sarah George