If you’re reading this, chances are that forty-five minutes is roughly a lunch break for you. Forty-five minutes is about an hour less than what you feel you deserve for a break and a simple flash in the pan. Imagine now that you’re struggling to breathe for forty-five minutes. Suddenly it seems like a long time.
On Saturday, September 11, 2010, Avery’s doctor finally decided that he would attempt to remove the ventilator support that she was receiving. We had already visited her for the day and knew what was going to be attempted. During the visit Avie showed us her strength and seemed ready for the next step. We were optimistic.
At about 6:00pm my phone rang. “This is Quintin Roggenkamp and the number is ****. Is Avery okay?” I have taken to answering the phone this way when I see the prefix for the hospital on the caller i.d. It saves about fives years of my life by doing so because each time that we see that prefix we are obviously scared beyond belief. And most of the time the person on the other end of the calls has no intention of giving us anything other than an update and therefore doesn’t think about the fear that we are put into when we see it. To date I have lost approximately twenty years by receiving these calls.
The doctor explained to me that Avie was okay, but that he had decided that she just wasn’t ready for the CPAP yet as he believed that she was working too hard while she was on it. He said that he had put the breathing tube back in and that she was doing fine. This was obviously disheartening to me. I had been optimistic about her making the progress and moving from the ventilator to the CPAP and the prospect of holding her more often and then progressing to the skin to skin care. Suddenly the progress had been paused.
When we went in to see her for the evening visit she looked comfortable and we were happy to see that she really hadn’t seemed to need much adjustment between going from the ventilator to the CPAP and then back. She seemed to be back to her old (relative term) self.
On the outside of the isolette was a picture inside a bag. It was of Avery with the breathing tube removed and the CPAP mask in place. There was a caption that read, “Look at me, I’m vent-free! 9/11/2010, 45 minutes.” One of the wonderful nurses had taken the pictures and used a printing program to provide the caption. I am grateful.
While forty-five minutes may seem short to many of us, to a baby that is not supposed to even be in this world for another ten weeks, it is a long time. Add to that the many trials she has already been through and suddenly forty-five minutes of her breathing completely by herself is an amazing achievement.
As we stood next to that isolette this evening I told Avery how proud Robin and I are of her and her accomplishments. I told her that I know that when she is ready she will crush the very same ventilator that is currently helping her to breathe. But I also told her to take her time and to do it when she is ready and that I admire her strength and that there is no way that I could be as strong as she is showing us that she is.
The next time that a lunch break seems too short, just think about the fact that Avery, and countless other preemies around the world, are living minute to minute and struggling the whole way. That break doesn’t seem so short anymore, does it?