September 6, 2000 is a day I will never, ever forget. I can remember the weather - a warm, late summer day, blue skies with a few puffy white clouds. I can remember the time, 6:15pm. I can remember the sight of a toilet full of blood. I can remember the immediate fear and the certainty my baby was dead. At 23 weeks and 4 days, I'd abrupted - the placenta was tearing away from the uterine wall, and I was bleeding profusely, contractions starting. A call to my O.B. rendered no help. The massage therapist who was supposed to be giving me a pregnancy massage ended up driving me in my vehicle down the hill to the hospital less than a quarter mile from his office. They don't tend to ask you your name nor any other vital information in the emergency room when you tell them you're pregnant, and you're bleeding all over their floor. Whisked into a wheelchair and hauled quickly to Labor and Delivery, I remember the sound of my baby's heartbeat on the monitor filling the room, and I breathed. That breath was short-lived. Calls were made. My husband arrived at the hospital in time to go with me for the hour-long ultrasound to determine what was going on. Then, a middle-of-the-night ambulance ride to a hospital that could, "handle a 23-weeker", the magnesium sulfate was started to stop the contractions. The prognosis wasn't good. Our baby had very little chance of survival, and no chance of surviving without lifelong medical and developmental issues. I would stay put in that hospital bed until I reached 32 weeks, or I delivered, whichever came first.
I lay in that hospital bed for sixteen days, thankful for the Summer Olympics in Sydney as watching the events occupied the long, boring, lonely days. And then on a Friday night, I started running a fever. By 11pm, we knew I had an infection of some kind. The contractions came back in spite of an increase in the magnesium sulfate. I was in pain, I exhausted. At 11:30am on Saturday, my water broke. At 2pm, people flooded the room – 5 nurses, and three doctors. But there was total silence at 2:29pm when Ryley entered this world. I saw his tiny foot from across the room as they worked on him. I asked my husband if we had a son or daughter as no one found it important enough to tell us. He told me, “It’s a boy”, and then I heard the tiniest, mewling cry just before Ryley was intubated. He weighed 2 pounds, and was 15 inches long, considered big for his gestation of exactly 26 weeks.
Ryley suffered respiratory distress syndrome and was given surfactant therapy. About twenty minutes after they took him from the delivery room, the attending neonatologist came back and handed us two Polaroid pictures of our son. He told us, “You have a feisty fighter on your hands.” Ryley was already pulling on the ventilator tubes. I saw my son for the first time three hours later, just before he was transported to his NICU at a hospital ten minutes away. As my husband rolled me up to the warming table, I reached out my finger, and placed it in Ryley’s hand. Ryley grabbed on with all his tiny might. I said goodbye, told him to fight, and watched as they put him in the ambulance. I didn’t see him again for five days.
Ryley spent 93 days in the NICU. He was a rockstar though, moving from ventilator to CPAP at just 36 hours old. He spent a few days under the bili lights. He had his own staph infection. He had a Grade I/II brain bleed on the left side, which resolved on its own. Somehow he avoided the need for a PDA ligation. He didn’t suffer ROP. He did like his CPAP though and we fought to get him moved off of it. But after 93 days, on Christmas Day 2000, we brought our son home. He never looked back.
Ryley is now fourteen years old. To look at him, you would never know his start in life. He is perfectly healthy, “normal”, and active. He has mild asthma, ADHD, and wears glasses. We chalk all that up to genetics. He fought hard to be where he is, and he inspires me daily.
When Ryley was four years old, I found out exactly all the March of Dimes had contributed towards his miraculous life. The next year, we formed Team Roo and walked in our first March for Babies. On his first day of life, my mother-in-law had begun calling him Ryley Roo. The Roo had stuck, thus our team name. We will be walking for our eleventh year come April. In that time, we’ve raised over $35,000 for the March of Dimes. There’s nothing we can do, save this, that comes close to saying thank you for our son’s life. Our Team page can be found at http://www.marchforbabies.org/team/t2241107
The same year we formed Team Roo, while I was looking online for information about our local walk, I saw a button on the March of Dimes home page which said “Share Your Story.” I clicked the link and was taken to this community for NICU parents. I read words from other moms which so mirrored my own thoughts and experiences. I lurked around for a bit, reading other stories. I sat here and cried because they were saying everything I was thinking. I never knew I needed to heal from Ryley’s premature birth. I had my child and he was doing great. But I kept reading. And then I posted a short version of our story. To my surprise, I got one response, and then another. The community was new and very small then. Before I knew it, I was spending hours talking to these amazing women who just got it. The healing process began, and I was able at the same time to give hope to those just beginning their NICU journey. Share was my lifeline. Ten years later, those women are my best friends. I can go to them at any time with anything, and vice versa. This place gave me hope and healing, one more thing for me to say thank you to the March of Dimes for.
It is so amazing to read a post from someone who has been on for 10 years! I am so very thankful for this site! It comforts me in a way that nothing else can! Bless your hear for so much fundraising!
Thank you! So happy you're finding comfort here. It is a pretty amazing place.
Go Team Roo!
Donna, thank you for sharing your story. I am truly inspired by your team:) I didn't know that Ryley was finally discharged on Christmas! What a very special day indeed! D came home in time for the holidays in 2005 and it was the best gift we could have ever received.
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