Born at 28 weeks gestation several months ago, the baby was mature enough that he should have done well, but he was very small for his age and never did well from a respiratory standpoint. He even needed to go home on a ventilator. (Note to clinicians: I suspect he had some degree of lung hypoplasia.) Now followed by a pulmonologist, he had been re-hospitalised for breathing problems and only recently gone home again.
It was a little discouraging to hear mom tell me about him, because he clearly still had significant lung disease. He still needed a lot of help from the ventilator and a high oxygen concentration to maintain a normal level of oxygen in his blood. In fact, it sounded like his lungs had not improved at all and perhaps worsened since we discharged him, which makes you wonder if he'll ever improve and come off the ventilator, or whether he'll even survive. On the bright side, though, his neurodevelopment sounded pretty good. Mom said he was smiling and rolling over - no small feat when you're attached to a ventilator pumping forty breaths per minute into you.
Mom, only 20 years old and single, seemed to be doing pretty well, even though it takes a tremendous effort to care for a baby on a ventilator at home. She was approved by insurance for 16 hours of nursing per day, a big help, although they could not always find enough nurses to fill the 16 hours per day. Also, mom seemed to be pretty realistic about her baby's condition. In a statement that was hopeful yet heartbreaking at the same time, she said, "I don't know if he'll ever get better, but I'm sure going to enjoy him in the time I have with him."
I've written some unflattering things about young single mothers (mostly about ones with multiple pregnancies and kids), so it's only fair that I report a good one when I see her. I was tremendously impressed by this mother and her devotion, especially at an age when she wouldn't normally be inclined to sit around at home very much. An attractive woman with nice clothes and a stylish haircut, she looked like someone who should be having a date at a nightspot or walking the mall with her friends; instead, she is at home nearly all the time caring for her fragile child.
We can take nothing for granted in life, and that is especially true around childbirth. Regardless of whether her baby survives for more than a couple years or not, this woman's life will forever be changed because she had a sick, premature baby who was on the bad side of outcomes. My heart goes out to her, and I wish her all the best.