Thursday, 21 December 2017

Happy Birthday, Liz


About 26 years ago, we lived in Brewarrina, a small town in north-western NSW, and I was pregnant with our first child. 

Brewarrina was a very small town, so we often went to Dubbo, about 5 hours' drive away, for shopping and medical check ups. 

On this particular trip to Dubbo, I was about 34.5 weeks pregnant and we were having a check up because my local doctor had thought I was a bit small for that gestation, so he wanted some checks done in a larger centre. 

So, after a couple of days of shopping, we marched into the ultrasound room, hoping to get the checks done and dusted, so we could start on our 5hr journey back to Brewarrina.    I wasn't feeling great, seeing stars and had a bit of a headache, but put it down to too much heat and shopping.   We were sick of the big smoke and the heat and ready to head north.   Little did we realise what a little smoke Dubbo was compared to Sydney. 

The ultrasound specialist began her checks and got very quiet.  She called in another technician and they both look worried.   Someone checked my blood pressure and asked a few questions.  Then they panicked!  

They gave us a pretty bleak scenario.  This child possibly had an external bladder and/or kidneys and was growth retarded and they weren't sure why.  My blood pressure was through the roof and I was being sent to Sydney immediately on a plane for specialist treatment.

'Um, excuse me, we're actually going home.  It's all good, you're all over-reacting and we just want to get home before it gets too late and we have to drive into the sun.' 

No, we weren't going home and it finally sank in how serious this could be.   So, I stayed put while hubby dashed off to let our Christian friends at St Faiths House of Prayer know to start praying!   Thankfully, there was a prayer retreat happening at the time, so there were plenty of pray-ers. No mobile phones back then to send text messages, no Facebook for quick coverage, just leg work. 

In the meantime, the medical staff started the process of organising a plane for me to go to Sydney, and let Dave know that he'd have to drive down.     I wasn't allowed out of bed and was told I had this condition and that condition, most of which I'd never heard of.  We then decided to freak the parents out, giving them enough information to worry and not enough to put their minds at rest, because we honestly didn't know ourselves what was going on.   It was a difficult time for them, because it was very difficult to get in touch with us and find out what was going on.  No mobile phones and this was the first grandchild on both sides of the family. 

So, on the plane, I'm lying on my back, thinking that I was going in the wrong direction and where was my hubby and what on earth was going to happen to this baby.    I remember looking out the plane window, seeing some clouds and lots of blue, and feeling pretty helpless, and I began thinking of some lines from a song I'd sung in church many times - 'God who made the earth, the air, the sky, the sea, Who gave the light its birth, careth for me.'  It sure was a big sky and I needed an even bigger God to fix this problem.   I felt quite calm after that and the attending nurse was glad of it, because anxiety wasn't helping my elevated blood pressure.  

We got to Sydney and I was taken by ambulance to King George V Women's Hospital, part of Royal Prince Alfred, and eventually sent off to intensive care, where I was parked next to a lady with gestational diabetes who was in a bit of strife.   Because it was only a few days before Christmas and something like midnight when I arrived in the ward, they were scrambling to find specialists.   A young female doctor came in, an intern from memory, and her first words were pretty chilling and not at all comforting - 'If this was the 1950s, you'd both be dead!'   'Um, thanks.  Your bedside manner could use some work', I thought to myself.  

So, here I am in Sydney, in intensive care, with a chatty and very sick lady next to me, wondering what on earth is going to happen next.   It's past midnight, I should be asleep, at home, about 800km away, with my hubby, but I'm not.  Hubby had had to get the car out of the garage where it was being serviced, try and convince the bank to give us a cash advance on our mastercard at short notice, and then drive to Sydney late in the day, not knowing where on earth he was supposed to go.   On the way through the Blue Mountains, he followed a truck with a large boat on it.   He suddenly felt an urgency to pull up, and did, and had he not done so, he would have been hit by the boat because it came loose from the truck.   When he finally got to the edge of the city, he rang NRMA, and someone kindly escorted him to Newtown and showed him how to get to where he needed to be.  I think he arrived at something like 2am, only to find me wide awake! 

The next day, they gave me endless drugs to get my blood pressure down, told me I had something called pre-eclampsia and oedema and that my baby would undoubtedly be born with life-threatening issues, based on the ultrasound information.   They did another ultrasound and decided that something must be wrong with the ultrasound machine back at Dubbo, because the baby was now bigger than the technician back there had measured her to be.     The original measurement showed that she was about 9 weeks behind in her growth, and this one showed her to be only about 7 weeks behind.   We put that down to prayer! 

They then put a central line into my heart, to control the blood pressure.  That was a whole lot of fun and the bruises were amazing.   

I also got my first taste of a catheter and endless canulas!   They did another ultrasound and found it gave yet another size reading, a bit bigger again.  More prayer from the fervent pray-ers!   After another 36 hours of drugs and endless conversations about conditions we had never heard of, it was decided that they needed to do an emergency caesarean because the continued elevation in my blood pressure could kill one or both of us.    I remember them saying they had given me enough drugs to knock out a football team and nothing was improving. 

So, Elizabeth Sarah was born by emergency caesarean in the early evening of  22nd December, 1991, about six weeks early.  She weighed in at one and a half bags of sugar (so dubbed by our friend Suzy), which translates to about 1.5kg or 3lb 6oz.  She came out looking like a frog - skinny legs and arms and a big belly.   She had a tinge of red hair and looked a lot like her Dad!  (No, he doesn't look like a frog!).   She had a large bubble on her belly button, which they had mistaken for incorrect placement of her bladder and kidneys, but it was all good.   It was a sac of amniotic fluid that soon went down.  

She went into a humidicrib and I wasn't allowed to be with her for about the first 36 hours because she was so tiny and I was still so sick.   Dave spent his time going between the two of us.  

At just four days old, she started to breastfeed, though we continued tube-feeding her as well.   I spent my spare time mastering the art of walking with swollen legs, a large, painful scar and many bruises.   You don't realise how hard it is to walk up and down steps until every part of you is in pain. 

Liz made good progress and at just 12 days old, she became the youngest and smallest baby ever released from the NICU, and we started heading back to Dubbo with our little 'doll'.  We couldn't find any clothes small enough (premmie clothes were virtually non-existent back then) so we went to a toy shop and bought some dolls' clothes.  Thankfully it was summer and we didn't need a lot once we got home to the Brewarrina heat.   We still have the one premmie jumpsuit we were able to buy, which is equivalent to a 0000, and even that was too big for her.   

Lizzy's Grandma made cotton nappies the size of men's hankies and a few little dresses, but mostly she lived in a few small cotton tops and nappies.  Lizzy's great-grandmother, Nan Gardner, knitted her a few bonnets and used an orange to guage the right size for them and got busy knitting some clothes for the cooler months.  She died when Liz was just a few months old, grateful to have seen and held her first great-grandchild.   

I'm thankful, looking back, that Liz was our first baby because we didn't realise just how tiny she was.   Many others did and often marvelled at her.    She took about 18 months to catch up to 'normal' size and you wouldn't know now that she was a premmie.  

We've had quite a few medical emergencies since then and the lessons learned in this first big test we have never forgotten.  The biggest lesson learnt and still being learnt is that when you're out of your depth and you really can't do anything, you have to trust God because He is bigger than all of it and He can do exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ask or imagine. 

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory...............  Ephesians 3:20

This is the hymn I learnt and sang many times as a child, the first verse of which I remembered and sang again and again during that time. 
1 God who made the earth,
the air, the sky, the sea,
who gave the light its birth,
careth for me.
2 God who made the grass,
the flow'r, the fruit, the tree,
the day and night to pass,
careth for me.
3 God who made the sun,
The moon, the stars, is he
who, when life's clouds come on,
careth for me.
4 God who sent his Son
to die on Calvary,
he if I lean on him,
will care for me.
Author:  Sarah Betts Rhodes (1870)

So, Happy 26th Birthday, Liz!  It's lovely to see you with your own little people now, knowing that you've survived a few of your own medical dramas and found God faithful in the midst of them all.   It's lovely to see you following hard after Him, and growing in the God who made the earth, the air, the sky, the sea and who careth for you.  

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