Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Happy 10th Birthday Bethany!

Today is my daughter Bethany's 10th birthday! It's hard to believe she's already 10, and will be going into the 5th grade this fall! That makes me feel old! I still remember how excited I was when I was pregnant and found out I was having a girl. I had multiple ultrasounds during my pregnancy for various reasons, and every one showed a girl, but I was still so afraid the ultrasounds were wrong, that I hardly bought anything pink for her before she was born. I actually brought her home from the hospital in a blue sleeper! I made up for it with lots of pink, ruffled socks and dresses later on, until when my daughter was in kindergarten, and announced that ruffled socks were for babies, and refused to wear them again, LOL! And she still won't wear anything too frilly to this day!

My Bethany has always been a stubborn, opinionated one. I had a horrific
pregnancy with her - every pregnancy ailment imaginable right up until I gave birth. I was so nauseated throughout the pregnancy that I only gained 15 pounds. My water broke at work two weeks before my due date (yep, at work!), but I had to be induced, because I wasn't having contractions, and still didn't have her until 12 hours later, and she insisted on being born face first instead of head first!

When Bethany was 3 weeks old, she came down with what my husband, her pediatrician, and I all thought was a bad cold. She continued to get worse until one day she refused to take a bottle all day, and wouldn't even cry. Being a young and new mom (I was 24 when I had her), I didn't realize how ill she was until my youngest sister came home from work (my sister and husband and I shared an apartment back then), picked her up, and my daughter went limp in her arms and turned blue. I paged my husband (he was working as a maintenance man in our apartment complex), and called 911. While I was on the phone with a dispatcher, my husband came home, and we rushed out to take Bethany to the local emergency room, which fortunately was only about a 5 minute drive away. When we got to to the emergency room, they took Bethany back right away, put an oxygen mask on her, and called for an ambulance to take her to Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital here in Cleveland.

My husband and I followed in our car, and when we got to the hospital, had to spend the next hour sitting in the waiting room while the doctors stabilized our daughter. When we finally got to see her, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. She was lying in this huge hospital crib, on a ventilator, unable to breathe on her own, with a tube down her throats, and dozens of other tubes and wires all over her body. She was kept tranquilized so she wouldn't knock the tubes out, and I couldn't even hold her. I was on maternity leave from my job, so I spent every day and night in her hospital room, only going home to shower and change clothes. My husband still had to work, but he spent every evening and night at the hospital with me.

Bethany was diagnosed with dehydration and a severe case of RSV (respiratory synctial virus), and spent the next week in the PICU growing sicker and sicker while my husband and I watched helplessly. She eventually became so ill that the virus spread throughout her whole body, and her body started shutting down. The hospital listed her in critical condition, and my mother arranged for a Catholic priest to come baptize her in the hospital in case she died. I started thinking about funeral arrangements and possibly donating her organs. The doctors said the only thing left they could do would be to give her a blood transfusion, in the hopes that an infusion of white blood cells would boost her immune system. My husband and I agreed to the transfusion, and miraculously, after the transfusion, she gradually began to get well.

I thank God for the anonymous person whose donation of blood saved my daughter's life. I am also thankful for all the kind nurses and doctors who helped us through that horrible time. One of the nurses made me laugh when she said Bethany woke up from the sedation, and the nurse tried to sedate her again, and despite giving her the maximum amount of sedative, Bethany just laid awake, staring at her, and refused to go to sleep!

After two weeks at the hospital, we were able to take Bethany home. Her pediatrician told me at a follow-up appointment that he felt bad that he didn't realize how sick Bethany was when we brought her to see him before she ended up hospitalized, and that quite frankly he was surprised that she lived, considering how young she was, and the severity of her infection. I've felt guilty for years that I didn't realize either how sick Bethany was, and I often think about if my husband and I hadn't taken her to the hospital that evening, that she probably would died before morning from either the dehydration or not being able to breathe. Bethany spent the next few years of her life it seemed, constantly sick, with one thing after another. Unfortunately my boss at the job I started a few months after she was born, had no sympathy when I needed to miss work when Bethany would get sick. He had two teenage daughters, so it had been years since he had a baby at home, and his wife was a stay at home mom when the girls were growing up, so he didn't understand the concept of a parent needing to miss work to stay home with a sick child.
When Bethany was 5, she developed a really bad cough, that would worsen at night, to the point where she would wake up in the middle of the night coughing so bad that she would vomit. I made an appointment with her pediatrician, but it was a week away. One morning I got to work, and had a voice mail message from her daycare (the child development center where my son now attends), saying my daughter was really sick, and my husband or I would have to come pick her up. Before I could call the daycare, I got another call saying Bethany had gone into respiratory stress, and nearly passed out, so the teacher who was with her had called for an ambulance. The teacher and the director of the center rode to the hospital in the ambulance with Bethany, and stayed with her even after my husband and I got to the hospital. I was so thankful that the teachers at the center are CPR certified, and were able to recognize how sick Bethany was.

My husband and I found out at the hospital that Bethany had asthma. Before that, it never occurred to me that coughing could be an asthma symptom. Bethany spent the next month in and out of the hospital emergency room and doctor's office. With all the grief I was getting at work (from a woman who had became head of my area when the mortgage company I worked for was sold to a large bank), for taking time off with Bethany, and Dominic, who was only three months old, and extremely colicky, I ended up quitting my job and staying home with the kids for the next few months and finishing up my bachelor's degree.

Bethany's being diagnosed with asthma added another layer of guilt to what I already felt from her earlier hospitalization, because I believed that the RSV infection damaged her lungs and made her more susceptible to asthma. Over the past few years, I've met so many parents with children who had RSV infections as babies, and who later developed asthma, and I saw a medical journal last year also suggesting the same. Bethany has also has allergies and eczema, and her pediatrician said that allergies, eczema and asthma are all related, and many children with one will develop the others.

In the past year, my son also developed asthma, although a much milder form than my daughter, and my husband and I found out, after getting him tested by an allergist, that he has multiple allergies as well - cats (very mild), dogs (more severe), dust mites, and pollen. After one of my nieces developed similar allergies, although very severe (she'll ended up hospitalized if she's anywhere near a cat) and asthma, I began to feel a bit better about Bethany's asthma, realizing that with all the family history of asthma and allergies in the family, that even had Bethany been treated sooner for the RSV, that she still most likely would have ended up with asthma eventually, although maybe not as severe - she takes three medicines regularly for the asthma.

Sometimes (well, quite often!) Bethany frustrates me with her stubbornness, but I believe God made her that way for a reason - I truly believe her strong will even as a baby, helped her survive the RSV infection, and I thank God that's she's here with me today. I enjoy doing girly things with her, like taking her downtown for a hair cut at the salon, shopping and lunch, reading chapter books with her every night, laughing at the goofy names of kids in her school math book story problems (Jimbo, anyone?!), and laughing ourselves to tears while we make up new Red Haired Lady stories. I'm proud of how she tries hard at math, even though she was diagnosed with a math learning disability, and even the most basic math is extraordinarily hard for her. I feel proud of how the battery of tests she received to diagnose the learning disability showed that she's several grade years ahead with her vocabulary level, as is her reading ability. I enjoy her love of pink, jazz music, animals, science, and old TV shows and cartoons, like Betty Boop and Felix the Cat. She's a smart, funny, sweet, beautiful girl, and I'm proud to be her mom.


Bezzie said...

Happy birthday kiddo!

Ah, 10 years old and already she's given you your fair share of gray hair. They never tell you about this stuff in those pregnancy/parenting books! Ha ha!

Laurah said...

Happy Birthday to your daughter! She sounds like a very resilient little girl.

Christina said...

Wow, it sounds like Bethany is your true miracle baby!

Hapy Birthday Bethany!

naida said...

Happy birthday to your daughter...they grow up so fast!