Becky’s day was very full but I struggle to remember what happened.
Because today belonged to another little girl. Her name is Sterling.
Today we saw Sterling’s family leave the PCICU. After 143 days. Sterling has been in the unit since her birth last September. When she was born, she was immediately whisked into surgery, before Maddie and Kingsley even knew if she was a boy or a girl. Can you imagine? They are a lovely couple who have graciously accepted all that life has thrown at them. Mom and I met them at the Ronald McDonald House last October. Sterling was just about 2 months old.
Through my time in the NICU with Becky, they were in the PCICU with Sterling. We would often see them at breakfast. No matter their own difficulties, they never once failed to ask about Becky and to express concern for her wellbeing. We reconnected with them last week. As I walked into the PCICU after Becky’s surgery, I saw Sterling’s room. And I felt a bit of relief. It helped the unit feel less intimidating; I knew we had friends with seasoned experience just around the corner.
This morning Sterling left the PCICU to transition to a regular floor. Maddie and Kingsley hope to take her home, for the first time in her life, sometime next week. Mom and I stood at the door of Becky’s room. I watched as baby Sterling was slowly pushed in a cart. Maddie looked so regal and brave, eyes fixed forward, willing herself to take these long awaited but difficult steps. As the entourage turned the corner, the PCICU staff awaited them with bubbles and cheers. The “Rocky” theme song played in the background. There were long hugs and tears as doctors and nurses embraced this family of three. Finally, the doors opened and they walked into their future.
The PCICU has been the only home that Sterling has known and the medical staff has become a beloved family. I saw several nurses turn away, struggling to maintain their composure. I overheard one mention that she had watched Sterling since the day of her birth. The whole thing was bittersweet and profoundly moving. I didn’t take pictures because it didn’t feel right. But the memory will play in my mind forever.
It was a happy moment. It was a sad moment. It was a sacred moment.
Becky continues to make progress. One of her central lines was removed, eliminating a potential source of infection. However, the peripheral line in her hand stopped working. It was a long, painful process to secure another line in her leg. I stayed by her bedside but it was brutal to watch. A nurse practitioner was finally successful. When it was over, Mom saw this nurse turn from Becky’s bedside and solemnly make the Sign of the Cross.
Becky was taken off the NIV machine and put on a high flow machine. The team tried to dial back some of her respiratory support but Becky couldn’t tolerate the decreased flow. They will give her another day before trying again. I began some of the discharge training although her release isn’t imminent. It will take some time for all the information to soak in. The staff seems to understand this. Becky will be very fragile with a severely limited immune system, requiring oxygen and close monitoring at home.
But enough about Becky. Today was about Sterling. And her parents.
God bless you, sweet girl.
*Sterling’s photos used with permission