When my daughter, A, now age 4, came home from twelve weeks in the NICU, she also came home with a g-tube (feeding tube) in her tummy. It came with a lot of equipment (pump, bags, IV pole, syringes, etc) and required a lot of care (cleaning the site, putting gauze around it to soak up leakage, etc). My mother remarked that A came with "some assembly required".
She did not know how true those words would become.
A month after coming home from the NICU, A went back into the hospital to get a tracheostomy. THAT came with a lot of equipment (catheters, suction pumps, mist machines, nebulizers, etc) and required a lot of care (suctioning mucus, changing the trach, etc). We very much had to "assemble" our daughter every day, making sure that her g-tube and trach were well taken care of and that we had plenty of supplies on hand.
A month after getting her trach, at the age of 5 months, A got her hearing aids. We chose pretty one (purple aids with pink molds) but even pretty hearing aids require care (testing the battery daily, cleaning the molds, etc).
At this point, it wasn't a joke anymore that A came "some assembly required". She truly did!
When she was 2 years old, and still not walking by herself, our physical therapist helped us get a gait trainer (walker) for her. This enabled A to be upright, instead of crawling, and walk with assistance. It was big and bulky and cumbersome, but she loved being able to walk around at school with the other kids.
She needed shoe inserts at this age, too, to help correct the way she was stepping.
Also around this time, A's opthamologist recommended that she wear glasses. Not really for correction; her vision is not near- or far-sighted. However, A has coloboma, meaning that she has gaps in both of her optic nerves. Her left eye is legally blind, which means that we need to protect her right eye as much as possible. Plastic glasses offer a lot of protection, so even though I didn't want to add ANOTHER device to my daughter's body, we got the glasses. I really want to protect what she has.
So, by the time she was 3 years old, my daughter was the ultimate in coming "some assembly required". She had a g-tube, trach, hearing aids, glasses, and a walker. At times it seemed I was caring for a 90 year old, not a toddler! At the height of her needs, we had to lug with us: her portable feeding pump; Pediasure and a bag to put it in; extension tubing and syringes for the g-tube; her suction pump for the trach; tons of extra catheters; an extra emergency trach and trach ties; plus scissors, paper tape, gauze, extra hearing aid batteries, and various sundry other items. This doesn't include the emergency kit I always had in my car with even more extra supplies, including an ambu bag for CPR and oxygen (thank God I never had to use either!)
Slowly but surely, some of her assisted devices have dropped away. She began to walk unassisted earlier this year, and had no use for the walker (in fact, I just gave it away to a family who needed one but whose insurance company wouldn't provide one). And of course she got her g-tube and trach removed this past July. Now we only have her hearing aids and glasses, two devices she will likely always need. Compared to what we had been dealing with, this is nothing!
I feel so grateful for all that we DON'T have to do for A these days. We are lucky that most of her devices were gone by age 4. I will never forget the "old days"...lugging equipment, making sure all of our devices were being fully charged overnight, hearing the loud sounds of the mist machine at night. But all of those devices, all the tubing in her body, saved her life. She would not be alive, or thriving the way she is, without them.
Ambassador Spotlight : Rebecca Reynolds McIvor
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