2016-09-15 / Views

Prayers help as newborn recovers

A column by Patti Brandt Burgess

Anybody who is friends with me on Facebook knows by now that my grandson Derrick, who is a little more than one week old as of this writing, underwent open heart surgery last week.

He was four days old.

I went to see him Saturday at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. When I got there they were doing an emergency procedure because the oxygen saturation of his blood was too low.

On Sunday, when he was only marginally better, he was off to the cardiac cath lab for a closer look at his heart, which still was not pumping enough oxygen around his tiny body.

On Monday he was better and they started weaning him off the ventilator and some of the heavy duty medications he is on.

Later that day he opened his eyes for the first time since his surgery.

I wasn’t there, but I’m sure that for his mom and dad it was like the sun finally coming out from behind some very dark clouds.

And that was only the first week or so of his life.

Derrick was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a birth defect in which the left side of the heart does not develop correctly and the flow of blood through the heart is affected. Three surgeries done at birth, at about 4 months and at about age 2 will correct the defect, which was found during a routine fetal ultrasound.

For someone who only weighs eight pounds, little Derrick is proving to be pretty scrappy.

So are his parents Joey and Deanna.

I guess they don’t have much choice. This little guy stole their hearts and he’s hanging onto them for dear life.

As for me, I have a newfound respect for parents with a sick child who needs extended or multiple hospital stays.

It means endless hours spent in waiting rooms and at his bedside.

It means anxiously watching the numbers blinking on all the monitors and after just a few days knowing and being able to explain what each number means and whether it is a good number or not-so-good number at any given moment.

It means that a fluttering eyelid and a finger squeeze — known as the grasp reflex in newborns — can make the hours and hours of waiting worth every second.

It also means missing lots of work and when vacation time runs out, missing income.

Joey and Deanna are staying at Ronald McDonald House, which is right across the street from the hospital. They’ll have their room there until Derrick goes home in a few weeks.

I have always known I was either very lucky or very blessed to have three very healthy children and several very healthy grandchildren.

My middle son Charley had a broken collarbone (from falling off the jungle gym at a playground) and a torn eyelid (from falling off the top bunk of his bunk bed), they’ve all had a few sprains here and there and they all had chickenpox, as they were too young for the 1995 roll-out of the new chickenpox vaccine.

The worse thing Joey, my youngest, ever had to go through was an emergency appendectomy on Christmas Eve several years ago.

So I’m pretty sure I would have been ill-equipped for the job of parenting a very sick child. Though maybe all parents are ill-equipped when they start out and learn as they go.

Joey has certainly never been through anything like this, unless you count the skinny, raggedy, homeless dog he found under a truck at the grocery store a couple of years ago and nurtured back to health.

I recently wrote a story about Olivia Kinker, who had a heart transplant in December, and Stefani Pentiuk, who had a transplant when she was 8.

Both are doing well. Stefani, in fact, got married this past weekend. She firmly believes it was the prayers of her friends and family that have got her through everything she had to go through.

Those prayers, she said, enveloped her and held her up, made her feel like she was floating.

I’m sure Olivia would say the same.

Almost without fail, all those Facebook friends and friends of friends and friends of friends of friends have offered up prayers for Baby D — as my sister-in-law Kym has dubbed him.

I know he is floating, enveloped, loved.

Thank you.

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