My entire pregnancy was hell, but it was a miracle. It was a miracle that, after having eight previous miscarriages and losing a son at 23.5 weeks, I had even become pregnant after years of trying and finally giving up. It was even more amazing that the pregnancy stuck around, when I thought every day that I would have another miscarriage. Every time we reached one goal, something else would crop up and the doctors would give us a new goal. I had my cervix shown shut to keep her in. I followed a strict regimen of eating to ensure she gained weight properly and stayed healthy and happy. I laid in bed, both at home and at the hospital, for THREE MONTHS.
Our doctors kept telling us to just try to make it to 30 weeks because 90+ % of babies do really well from 30 weeks onward. Most of them just need a little help breathing and they have to grow and learn how to eat. I did everything that was possible to get Cora to the 30 week mark and I told myself every day during that insane time that it was all for an excellent cause and that it would all be worth it in the end. What a crock of shit that was. The truth is, no matter how careful you are or how much you pray or what people tell you to expect, you just never know what will happen with a pregnancy. Fate is a cruel and entirely random course of events that we have absolutely no control over.
Since we heard yesterday that Pneumonia is what ultimately killed our daughter, I have had a whole host of new questions swirling around in my brain. I can’t stop them. They are overwhelming every other thought and have taken over my psyche completely.
First and foremost, I just can’t understand how every doctor who worked on Cora told us, “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” when pneumonia is one of the most common problems that plagues premature infants. How do the best doctors in BC miss pneumonia when they see it on a regular basis? Not once, during any of the meetings we had with doctors, did any of them even mention the possibility that Cora might have it. Instead, they told us that her heart looked a bit stunned because it wasn’t pumping regularly. They focused all of their energy on her heart when its irregularity was a side effect of the pneumonia.
All I keep thinking is that her death may have been totally preventable.
Just because her blood gases and other tests were normal when she was born doesn’t mean that she was okay. Every book that I read on preemies before I had her (and I read EIGHT huge books on prematurity) said that almost all preemies go through a “honeymoon period” when they are born, where they do well for awhile and then it gets worse because almost all of them get some sort of bacterial infection, either during birth from the mother or from contaminated instruments/IV lines, etc. in the NICU. It is totally common and expected, although they try to prevent it. I’m not a doctor and I knew this. Why didn’t they check for it? Or did they check for it and then automatically rule it out, even though it usually doesn’t show up for awhile after birth. Did they recheck after awhile?
I also got VERY sick while I was in the hospital – puking my guts out to the point that they had to give me the same anti-nauseant they give chemo patients because I couldn’t keep anything down. The nurses told me it was most likely a nosocomial (or hospital-acquired) infection (also very common, but preventable) and, even though they were giving me antibiotics, many nosocomial infections are antibiotic resistant. So, since I gave birth shortly after being sick, it seems ridiculous that the doctors wouldn’t have automatically assumed that Cora would have picked up the nosocomial bacteria from me, which would, seemingly obviously, lead to nosocomial pneumonia in a premature baby.
Here’s the part that I’m struggling with. I know that the NICU doctor told us that she had given Cora some antibiotics as soon as she started taking a turn for the worse. That was a few hours after she was born, though. If they had hooked her up to antibiotics immediately, would she have been able to fight off the pneumonia and would all of the subsequent waterfall of problems (hypoxia, sepsis, etc.) never have developed? Suddenly, we have 1000 times more questions than we had before we knew what happened.
The results of her autopsy have ripped us open again, just as we were beginning to get around to accepting Cora’s death. I almost wish that a congenital defect had caused her death. At least then I would have been able to walk away knowing that she had a bum heart or something else that caused her to die and there would have been nothing we could have done about it. Instead, I’m left with the knowledge that we did everything right and she had come into the world perfectly healthy (despite being 9.5 weeks premature), with slightly immature lungs, and had the potential to live a long, healthy life.
A life that was cut short by something as common and treatable as pneumonia.
It’s not as though her death wasn’t already tragic enough for us, now we are faced with the possibility that it was a mistake or, at the very least, she could have had a fighting chance if she had been treated for the pneumonia before it got a chance to shut everything else down.
I need answers, even though I know they won’t bring her back.