Michael’s Story
By: dmduncan@optonline.net

How did one of the most special days of my life turn into a nightmare?

I have two children, Derick who is twelve and Michael who is three. My pregnancy with Derick was a piece of cake, everything went smoothly and I gave birth to an 8lb and 7oz bouncing baby boy.  He was perfect with no health issues.  Because of the ease with which I delivered Derick, l assumed everything would go as well when I delivered my second son.  I could not have been more wrong.

 The beginning of my pregnancy with Michael was uneventful, it wasn’t until my six month glucose test that I had any problems at all.  The results of my test showed that I had a severe case of gestational diabetes.  I was taking up to 120 units of insulin a day. My original due date was January 3rd but, by December I could not sleep, my fingers would tingle all the time, and I was very uncomfortable.  Due to my increasing symptoms from the diabetes, my doctors decided that they were going to induce me the day after Christmas, December 26th. I was so excited.  My husband, Phil, and I got up at 6:00 a.m. and drove to Norwalk Hospital happily anticipating the arrival of our first son together.  Soon after my arrival, the hospital staff began a Pitocin drip to induce my labor.   After several hours of Pitocin I had still not gone into labor.  I was not at all dilated.  Finally, at 6:00 pm, 12 hours after my “induction” my doctor sent me home and said we would give it another try the following morning.

The next morning, bright and early, Phil and I arrived at the Hospital again; still excited but becoming a bit worried and anxious.  I was given a gel treatment in an attempt to cause dilation and speed things up, but again we had no success.  We again were sent home and told to return the next morning for a second gel treatment.  At this point I was not only uncomfortable but frustrated as well.  We once again returned home.  My mother and father-in-law came to our house to visit and took Phil and me out to lunch.  We decided to try things the old fashioned way, so we all went for a long walk to try to speed things up on our own.  That night, at long last, my labor finally started!  I was in a great deal of pain, but at the same time I was happy that this pregnancy was finally going to be over and I was going to have my little boy!  I called the doctor and told her my contractions were getting very close and she instructed me to head out to Norwalk Hospital.

It was around 10:00 p.m. on Sunday evening when my doctor arrived and checked the status of my dilation.  I was disappointed to hear that I was only about two centimeters. She started the Pitocen drip again and my labor progressed.  Shortly thereafter I decided to get an epidural. Time started passing and the pain was increasing. At about 10:00 a.m. Monday morning I was still only dilated about 5 centimeters.  The doctor came in again around 12:00 noon and broke my water.  She reported to us that she saw meconium in the fluid.  My mother, who has been a nurse for 20 years, was very concerned and inquired why they were not making the choice to perform an   emergency C-section.  Her response was, “[b]because it was not like ‘split pea soup.’”  Although, my mother thought it was very odd and we were all getting nervous, we assumed the doctor knew what she was talking about and trusted her opinion.

Overall, I was feeling lousy and began to feel hot.  I asked the doctor to take my temperature and it was over 104 degrees.  The baby’s heart rate had increased so high it was off the charts and they could no longer read it.  We were all very scared.  For the next few hours I progressively got worse and at approximately 5:00 p.m. my doctor came in and decided she wanted to do an emergency C-section.  To further complicate matters, my surgery was delayed because the anisthegeologist was preoccupied with another situation so I had to wait.   At about 8:00 p.m. that evening they finally wheeled me in to surgery and there were a group of doctors waiting to care for the baby when he arrived. A few minutes later Michael was born thru C-section.  He weighed 9lbs 8ozs and he was blue and could hardly breathe, hardly the picture of health that I had seen when Derick was born.

For what seemed like an eternity, I waited in recovery.  I had no idea what was going on with Michael.   Finally, my doctor came in and told Phil and I  that Michael was very, very sick and that if he were to survive, he would have to be transferred to Yale.  She further explained that Norwalk Hospital did not have the equipment and machines that Michael would need to recover.  Phil traveled to Yale with Michael and I was taken about an hour later.   My luxury accommodations included an upright wheel chair in the back of an ambulance while the driver is on I-95 in the 3rd lane going about 80-90mph with a ton of bumps.  Not too pleasant on a two hour old C-section.

I finally arrived at Yale and was transported up to the 9th floor. After I got settled in the nurses took my temperature and it was still very high.  I felt awful, physically and mentally.  Around 1:00 a.m. a doctor came in our room and told us that Michael was still very sick and that we were going to have to make a decision regarding Michael’s treatment.  He had a 50% chance of surviving with no treatment.  Our other option was to put him on a Machine called the ECMO, which would increase his chances to 70%.  Without hesitation, we told the doctor to do whatever he could to do to save our baby’s life. He said he would call up for us after the procedure and tell us the status. At this point I still have not yet held, or even seen Michael; all we could do was wait.  Michael made it through the night into the next day, which was December 30th. It was the longest night of my life.  I finally saw him the next day and as the day progressed he began doing better and better.  I was letting myself be hopeful.

On the second day, December 31st, at about 5:00 p.m. I was sitting in my room  on the 9th floor. My sister-in-law came running into the room frantically and says to me Debbie they need you downstairs ASAP in the NICU with Phil and your family.  As I entered the unit my heart was throbbing and I was so nervous.  I will never forget the scene.  I saw all the doctors crying and Phil was screaming please take me not Michael!  My parents and in-laws were there, I went up to Michael and kissed him on his forehead and whispered in his little ear, “Michael the angels are watching over you.”  I could not stop crying, the doctors told us that Michael was failing and at that point there was nothing to be done to save him.  Michael’s heart rate started to drop so they escorted all of us to there waiting area where I was with Phil, his parents, and mine. We all were crying and in shock.  I was physically sick.  Suddenly there was a knock on the door and it was one of the doctors (Dr. Chapman).  She told us that there may be one more thing they can try on Michael, an older procedure that they used with the ECMO. She explained how they tried the newer procedure on Michael and he did not take to it, but there was that last option.  As she left I said to my family we are sitting here as if he is already dead and we need to go up to the room and pray.  I waited for the doctor to call us with the news on how it went. Finally, the phone rang.  I couldn’t believe what I heard.  The doctor told me that Michael had responded to the procedure and his stats improved. Phil and I spoke with the doctors and they wanted us to understand that everyday was going to be a struggle with Michael on the ECMO machine and that there were no guarantees. They also told us that patients who do go on the ECMO can only be on it for a total of up to 12 days and then they have to take him off of it, no matter what happens.

Over the next few weeks, Michael would have a few good days and then a few bad.  Time was passing and he was not showing improvement and they were getting worried because the 12th day was quickly approaching.  The doctors told us to go home and they would call us they were going to take him off the machine.  We had no choice, so Phil and I waited by the phone. It seemed like a lifetime but it finally rang and the doctor told us that they took him off the machine and he was stable!  He remained on a ventilator and all the other various machines, but he had made it through the first process. We were so happy I can honestly say for the first time I had hope and believed he was going to make it, and that the worst was over. I never believed in miracles, but now I do because Michael’s life is a miracle.

The doctors informed us that there could be complications with the ECMO as time passed.  They explained that some babies who were on it suffer from different ailments during their lifetimes, but Michael has absolutely nothing wrong with him.  I missed out on the beginning of Michael’s life.  The first time I held Michael was when he was about three weeks old, but it was a moment I will never forget and will always cherish.

If it were not for the grace of God, the doctors at Yale New Haven Hospital, and the ECMO machine Michael Connor Roselle would not be here today.

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