Wednesday, April 1, 2009

1 April- We have very exciting news... Carolione is now double her birth weight!!! Wait, that's not the best part...She has taken her full bottle the last 24 feedings!!! That's still not it...Today she passed her car seat test!!! Okay, we've left you hanging long enough...The most exciting news is that she is scheduled for discharge this coming Sunday April 5th!!! Doctors and nurses are now flooding us with information and new papers to sign. Caroline will be released with all of the current monitors she is on and her oxygen support as well. Kel and I are still trying to get over the nerves of learning to deal with these things at home but we are still very excited to have our baby home with us. She will also come home with a new style of brace for her hips and legs to keep improving there and we already have many appointments set up with various physical, occupational, and respiratory therapists for follow-ups. We are so thankful for all of your prayers along the way but please don't stop now. There are still many difficult days ahead as she fights to catch up with her actual age. Doctors tell us that developmentally this could take up to three years. We remain faithful and confident she will grow into a beautiful and intelligent little girl. Please also pray for Kel and I as we try to make final arrangements for her homecoming as well. Today we learned some of her prescriptions she needs may not be covered by insurance and some cost as much as $200. Also after picking out an awesome car seat/stroller combo we have learned it may need to be returned because another brand may fit our vehicles more safely for her needs. Finally, we will be sure to update at least one more time when she makes it home but that may be it for the Baby B blog site for a bit as we adjust to life at home as a new family.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

29 March- We are very sorry for the time in between updates. Caroline is up to 6 lbs 6.8 ounces and smiles more everyday. There are hints that the heart murmur may still be there but doctors aren't too concerned at this point. Her reflux has not improved and may even be worse which is making it difficult for her to finish feedings. They are changing the medicine she is on to see if that makes a difference. They tried to ween her off the oxygen support again this weekend but with no luck. It is now very likely she will be on oxygen support when she is discharged. While we want her to have the support she needs, Kel and I are a little nervous about the stresses of monitoring this when she comes home. Her hip/leg braces seem to be working but they will remain on for awhile longer. Her latest lung x-ray still shows the one lung will not fully deflate but there is no plan for corrective surgery at this point. Please keep praying as we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Friday, March 20, 2009

20 March- Caroline has been growing faster than we can keep up with. She is now up to 5 lbs 10.4 ounces. There is a down side to her growth rate in that her bone marrow is still developing and can't keep up producing enough blood. She is scheduled to have her third transfusion in the next few days. The nurses made some changes today with her bottle feeding and she took an entire bottle in only 25 minutes. That is probably her 6th or 7th entire bottle so far but the others took close to an hour. She is now attempting to bottle feed at least every other feeding and sometimes more. Her physical therapist has been checking up on her and decided Caroline would benefit from hip straps which wrap around her lower back, then her legs, and are attached to boots on her feet. The purpose is to keep her feet, legs, and hips all in a good line. Hopefully we will see the benefits of this therapy when it comes time for Caroline to start crawling and then walking. She finally had her second vision test and the results showed that while the vessels in her eyes are still very premature, there is no reason for concern and her sight seems to be getting better as she grows. They decided not to schedule her next hearing test until they remove her from her oxygen support. Somehow the flow can throw off the readings. Lastly, we learned today that the murmur in her heart has returned but doctors and nurses are confident that the upcoming transfusion will fix this problem. Please pray that the transfusion improves all of the things they say it can and pray for her continued improvement with bottle feeding. Every full feeding she takes is one step closer to home.

Friday, March 13, 2009

13 March- Caroline had an upper GI test very early this morning. The results showed that she has moderate to severe reflux and has now been put on Zantac and Mylanta. While we knew she had some signs of reflux, this level was surprising because she really doesn't act like it bothers her. Doctors say that some babies are just tougher than others and it's apparent Caroline is one of the tough ones. When Kel and I spoke to the doctor he explained what each of the medicines do and said there was a chance Caroline would be sent home on both. The good news is that while most babies with this much reflux stop wanting to eat, Caroline is continuing to improve with her bottle feedings and is now trying at least three times a day. She is now up to 4 lbs 14.8 ounces and will likely cross the 5 pound mark this weekend. Her hearing test will need to be redone as the results were inconclusive and we still don't have the results from her vision test so continue to pray for both of those as well.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

11 March- Kel and I are such proud parents this week. When Kel arrived at the hospital on Monday Caroline had been placed in an open crib and her nasal cannula had been removed. These were two huge steps accomplished over night. The new bed just makes her look like such a big girl which is becoming more and more true since tonight she weighed in at 4lbs 12.3 ounces. Caroline made it almost 24 hours without any oxygen support. Unfortunately she did wear herself out trying to breathe completely on her own and the doctors decided to put the cannula back in her nose. She has shown definite signs of progress with less and less oxygen desaturations. The bottle feedings are improving with each try and they are now allowing her to eat from a bottle each time she shows interest. Today was the first day where she ate from a bottle during two different feedings. Some of the signs of reflux are still there but are not bad enough to cause serious concern. Please pray that this remains a small issue. Also, we just learned she will be getting her first hearing and vision tests very soon so pray for good results there as well. Thanks for your continued support, we love you all.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

8 March 09- First of all, we want to thank all of you who have been praying diligently since our last post. Caroline has shown definite signs of improvement. The doctors are going to keep checking on the lung x-rays to watch the lung they've been concerned about but we have no reason to think it is getting worse. They are confident the medication she is on will fix the bacteria problems in her intestines and the changes in her oxygen flow/concentration led to the best week so far in terms of numbers of oxygen desaturations. While she still shows lots of signs of reflux the doctors were comfortable enough to bump her food levels up and we have actually been trying bottle feeding once a day for the past four days. Caroline struggles but is learning quickly. She is now up to 4 lbs 6 ounces. Please keep praying that the progress continues as they will continue to challenge her with new things until she is ready to come home.

Monday, March 2, 2009

2 March- Lots of prayers are needed for lots of different issues that our family has faced in the last week or so. It started late last week when Caroline showed signs of discomfort and even pain. There were also certain signs of reflux. After many tests they made the decision to take the added calories out of her food and to cut back on the amount of food they were giving her. Thankfully the discomfort slowly decreased but sadly so did Caroline's weight. For three days straight she either lost or stayed the same weight in a time when it is essential that she grow and develop. Other signs of reflux have continued along with other signs of struggles with her lungs and breathing. X-Rays have shown some over inflation in her right lung that is not fully deflating when she exhales. Doctors are hopeful that this will fix itself with time but if not it could be serious enough to require surgery. Her flow rate on the nasal cannula has been up since I wrote last but Caroline has still shown signs of desaturation in her oxygen levels. With the high flow doctors determined there was too much air building up in her abdomen so they've decided to set the oxygen rate to 100% instead of the 25% she's been averaging, but take the flow down to .01 liters rather than 4. As if these issues aren't enough to keep Kel and I's heads spinning, they have also detected a high level of bad bacteria in her intestines and have placed her on some antibiotics to help clear that up. For Kel and I the multitude of recent hurdles have brought on added stress and exhaustion. We love each other and our daughter so much but this situation has brought new challenges. While all of this may seem scary to everyone, there is comfort knowing that her doctors are still very pleased with her overall progress and are confident that many of these issues will be resolved. Please pray for our daughter and our family as a whole.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

21 February- A lot has changed since our last update. Kelly is healthy enough to visit Caroline but now has to visit in a new location. She has been moved to the South wing of the NICU which provides a private room, a much quieter setting, and a couch and extra chairs for visitors. From a medical standpoint the significance of being at the South end is that babies there have shown they need less intensive care and don't need a nurse hovering quite as close. Caroline's feedings have been increased seven times the amount she was getting last week and she is up to 3 lbs 12.3 ounces. The doctors and nurses are talking about removing her from all IV fluids and medications as early as tomorrow. Soon they will begin to test her ability to maintain her own body temperature and will look to increase her feeds even more. If there is one thing still not quite where we would like it to be, it is her breathing rate and oxygen level. As you probably read, they had to increase her oxygen levels a few days ago and have not been able to turn them back down. Hopefully, as she continues to grow and develop her dependence on the nasal cannula will soon decline.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

17 February- We have hit a bit of a rough patch the last couple of days. Yesterday started off with Kel coming down with a serious case of the stomach flu keeping her from seeing Caroline both yesterday and today. It has been very tough for her to stay away as Caroline has needed more attention. Early Monday morning Caroline was having trouble controlling her body temperature (later determined to be issues with the bed) so they ordered for some blood work to be done. No signs of infection were present but it did show that her red blood cell count was down again and led doctors to order another blood transfusion. The only vein they could find to run the transfusion was in her head and I can't begin to explain how difficult that was to see. She has also shown growing signs of shortness of breath where she can't/won't take slow and steady breaths. This issue has caused them to turn up the flow on her cannula. Nurses were also concerned with her looking a little out of it and more tired than usual so they've given her some preventative antibiotics. She continues to have some desaturations with the level of oxygen in her blood so we are hoping the transfusion and the greater flow will improve this as well. We need lots of prayers for the breathing rates and oxygen levels, and for Mom to feel better.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

15 February- Each time I begin an update it is hard to know where to begin. We've had both good and not so good news from St. Johns over the past few days and I'm just not sure what is best to start and end with. Either way, we thank you for patiently waiting for new words on Caroline's progress. Her brain scan from a few days ago came back normal and doctors don't anticipate any problems. Caroline has recently had issues with Bradycardia (drops in heart rate) and Apnea (forgetting to breathe). Doctors have tried to explain that both are signs of immaturity and that she should grow out of it but the fear it causes each time is immeasurable. Today, doctors will most likely raise the levels of oxygen flowing through her nasal cannula to try to reduce the work she is doing on her own and hopefully not wear her out to a point where those issues set in. She has been receiving the same amount of food during each feeding all week and has handled it very well. She is very close to being back to her birth weight and seems to know when it is time for more food. This week she will begin a pretty aggressive increase in food amounts to help her growth and development. We've been warned that preemies tend to have issues with reflux when their stomachs are tested with larger amounts of food. Her tolerance of food increases over the next couple of weeks will show whether she's ready to tackle the next few hurdles. If not it could prolong her stay in the NICU until she is able to move to the next stage of feeding. Please continue to pray for her progress. We would love to see a 48 hour period with no signs of heart rate or breathing issues and our hearts are heavy in hope that she can handle the food intake as it increases this next week. Thanks for your support.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

10 February- We have known for quite some time just how miraculous this entire situation has been but tonight provided yet another sign. As Kel and I pulled up to the hospital we both noticed a full rainbow arching right over the top of St. Johns hospital. A comforting sign of God's presence for all those needing care. Kel and I have both been able to hold Caroline and today we began using a technique called Kangarooing where she laid right up against our skin to help maintain body heat. I can't explain the feeling of having her so close and feeling her heart and her lungs working so well. Caroline got a new style of bed today where she is more isolated and will hopefully be able to rest more soundly. Once in the new bed she also was moved to a more isolated area of the NICU where she is away from the hustle and bustle and Kel and I can spread out more while spending time with her. Yesterday we received confirmation that the valve opening in her heart is now closed and the lung x-rays will stop because of the progress she's been making. Tomorrow is a big day as the doctors will be conducting the first scan of her brain. Specifically they will be searching for abnormalities and any signs of brain bleeds. Please pray that all goes smoothly. Finally, we want to acknowledge the awesome amount of cards, flowers, and phone calls we have received since Caroline was born. As we try to spend as much time as possible by Caroline's side, it's been hard to communicate how much we appreciate everything. please know that when things settle we will begin returning calls and sending notes to express our deep amount of gratitude.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

7 February- I really don't know where to begin. Doctors have warned us not to get too excited when Caroline has good days because there is bound to be bad ones. We can't help it as she took leaps over multiple hurdles in the past 12 hours. First and most exciting is that her ventilator came off about 2pm today and she is maintaining a normal breathing rate taking in sufficient amounts of oxygen on her own. Secondly, she has been taken off of her blood pressure medication and has had one of her IV lines taken out. Nurses expect to remove the monitor for her Carbon Dioxide levels very soon. They have listened to her heart multiple times today and the murmur from yesterday seems to have gone away. They won't know for sure if the valve closed until Monday but they said things are looking good. We recently got the results of another lung x-ray and both lungs appeared more clear than yesterday. And finally, while I'm not too thrilled about the effects of her next milestone, medically the fact that Caroline had her first bowel movement is a very good sign. We know that these results can only be the answer to all of the prayers you've sent out and we are so thankful. Please don't let up, there are many more hurdles to clear.

Friday, February 6, 2009

6 February- Both of my girls are progressing pretty well. Kel is up walking around and enjoying life without monitors and IVs holding her down. Caroline is still heavy on the monitors and IVs but is improving everyday. She is still on blood pressure medication and they've had to give her some medicine to settle her down a bit too. Chest x-rays are looking better and there is even talk of taking her off the ventilator within the next 24 to 48 hours. They have picked up a slight murmur in Caroline's heartbeat which is caused by a valve remaining open that usually closes right after birth. It's not uncommon for premature infants to have this issue but we are praying that the valve close up soon as it could require surgery if it doesn't. Overall nurses and doctors are pretty pleased with her progress and she is gaining quite the fan club. Kel and I still haven't gotten to hold her so that's another milestone we're praying for. Soon they will be running new IV lines in new areas of her body which could prove stressful but a must if we are to keep heading down the path of progress. We will keep you informed as we clear each hurdle. Thanks for your prayers and support.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

4 February- We are excited to announce that Caroline Hope Blankenship was born at 4:43am this morning. She weighed 3 lbs 4 oz and measured 16 inches. Thankfully she was not intebated right away so Kel was able to see her for a bit before she went into the NICU. Once there, they did determine she would need the ventilator along with some IVs and some monitors. After three x-rays and other tests the doctors are saying she is doing as well as can be expected for this age. Her lungs are still a little immature and her blood pressure has needed some attention but she is beautiful and loved and ticklish. Kel has had a tough day of recovery from the early morning surgery but apart from the exhaustion she is doing very well. She can't wait to be free to go see Caroline whenever she wants. We are praying that while our baby girl's stay at St. Johns is going to be awhile that she continue to show progress and make her parents proud. We also wanted to let you know that we will continue to update the blog to keep all of you informed of Caroline's progress. Thanks so much for your support and prayers.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

3 February- Wow, two updates in one day. Since a few hours ago we've had a bit of excitement. Kel has been contracting a little more and she's had some continual discomfort with lots of cramps. The doctor came in and did an exam but there are still no signs of labor. There was enough concern that they've run an IV to try to ease some of the pain and they are monitoring her much more closely. We are praying for God's timing and for Kel's ability to relax and not worry.
3 February- I've returned to St. Louis in time for lots of news. Late last week it was determined that while the baby is growing steadily, Kel has not been gaining the weight they would like. So she is now drinking protein shakes to try to pack on some pounds. Caroline's heartbeat has been much more erratic and the nurses say that means she is reactive which is a great sign of maturing. Today Kel had another ultrasound where the fluid levels were a little lower but the tech and Kel were able to see Caroline's chest expanding and contracting. The tech called these "practice breaths" and they could actually watch the diaphragm working. This is an excellent sign that she is building the skills she will need after birth. If that weren't enough good news, tomorrow is the 30 week mark, another big milestone.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

27 January- We are celebrating again as Kel hits the 29 week mark tomorrow. While I've been out of town Kel has done an amazing job of staying positive and not worrying that something would cause me to come rushing home. Today she had another ultrasound and we are so excited that Kel had more fluid today than she has since her water broke. It measured almost 6.3cm and it also appeared that Caroline's stomach and bladder were full. Both are possible signs of her taking in fluid which is great news. We have been so lucky this winter that most of our family has stayed healthy enough to visit Kel regularly. As we continually try to avoid germs even the sniffles are cause to stay away. Well, I've been out of St. Louis for three days now and I have a pretty good head cold. Please pray that I am over it before I return home on Friday. Also pray that while Kel has been doing great that we continue on that path and allow Caroline another month to grow before her grand entrance.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

22 January- The last 24 hours have been a little nerve racking. Caroline's heartbeat has had a few big dips and Kel has begun having contractions again. The doctors don't seem too concerned with the dips at this point as they tend to spring right back up, but still something they are watching very closely. The contractions are still not regular so no worries there yet either. We found out today that the girl in the room next to Kel had her baby this morning. She had been in the hospital since Kel arrived and literally was in the same scenario. Her water broke at 17 weeks and she was just shy of 29 weeks gestation today when she delivered. Their baby boy is on a respirator but appears to be taking in more oxygen and doing better than they anticipated he would. It was so awesome to hear their news. We will be praying for their little boy's growth and development and ask that you do too. We want Caroline to stay put past 29 weeks but their story gives us confidence for the day she does arrive.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

20 January- For those who wait anxiously for updates, we are very sorry that it has been a week since our last. I have been keeping very busy painting a baby room and other remodeling projects and Kel has been waiting rather patiently for today. Two reasons made today very special. First, it was Kel’s birthday and we had a great celebration this evening. A great birthday present was the growth and measurement ultrasound Kel had earlier. Caroline now weighs approximately 2 lbs 9 oz and is right around the 50th percentile on the growth charts. The tech said she is right on track. More exciting than that was the visible amount of fluid floating in Caroline’s stomach. This is awesome evidence that she has been taking in what little fluid there is. This fluid is essential for lung development and we hope this means she has been getting enough all along. Speaking of lung development, Kel reaches the 28 week mark tomorrow and is already scheduled for her second round of shots to help the lungs mature. This is another huge milestone. This is all great news and helps us stay confident but there are still needs for prayer. I have been ordered to Jefferson City for a week long class starting this coming Sunday. While the timing is awful the class is a necessary step for my military progression. Please pray that Kel and Caroline have the most uneventful week ever so I can focus and not worry about my girls.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

13 January- It has only been two days since our last update, but I feel like so much has happened. The contractions Kel started having a few days ago have continued. They are very sporadic but they've become enough of a concern that the nurses have prepared IV fluids to keep nearby just in case. They tell us they are watching for her to have six or more an hour before any new measures would be taken. The specialist explained that since Kel is further along now they would not try to stop the contractions. Of course we would rather the contractions go away so Caroline can grow inside for a few more weeks. Today Kel had another ultrasound and her fluid was again at a very low level. I'm not sure what brought it up but we raised the debate again about Kel's actual due date yesterday and after multiple checks today it has been determined she is due April 15 (the original date). We know we won't get there but its significant because that means Kel reaches the 27 week point tomorrow not this coming Sunday. We are a bit ahead of where we've been thinking. Once Kel reaches the 28 week point she will receive her second dose of steroids. After her ultrasound, Kel was able to visit the new sector of the NICU. This area is where babies go after they graduate from the NICU we toured awhile ago. St. John's is very proud of this new facility and its updates. We hold on to hope that most of Caroline's NICU time is spent there since that would mean she is advancing quickly.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

11 January- The last few days have been a little rough. On Friday Kel's ultrasound showed fluid levels at one of the lowest points since the start of our struggle. Doctors and nurses told us not to get too upset that the heartbeat and other signs still looked okay. Then late Saturday night I got a call to come back up to hospital because Kel had felt a few contractions. I could tell fear had set in with Kel as she spoke over the phone. Of course we know Caroline is going to be born early but we are hoping so much to make it past a few more milestones of development. After a few hours of some small and some not so small contractions they seemed to fade and Kel was able to get some rest. Since then she has had a few more but at this point there is no sign of labor. The doctor won't rule out that these could be early signs of heading that direction but they also said it is not uncommon for women in this situation to have a few random contractions. On a more positive note, Kel reached the 26 week mark today and we are praying for eight solid more weeks of growth and development so Caroline is able to receive another round of steroids and given a much better shot at a healthy start.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

7 January- Kel has now been in the hospital for a week and two days. We have been getting lots of reports of how well Kel and the baby are doing. In fact, she has been so stable lately that some of the frequent tests they were running have been canceled. She had another ultrasound yesterday and the fluid levels were down a bit but they were still higher than they had been before coming to the hospital. I was afraid that me going back to work would make Kel's days long and lonely. Thankfully, she has been blessed with guests both days so far. Tomorrow Kel and I celebrate our four year anniversary and while we would love to spend it somewhere outside of St. John's we are just happy that it is our first anniversary together since our first one.

Friday, January 2, 2009

2 January- Kel just returned from her weekly visit to the Perinatal Center for an ultrasound. These will now be primarily to check fluid levels since they are monitoring the baby's heartbeat 24 hours a day. We got some exciting news when they discovered Kel's fluid levels were up to 5.4cm. Most of you probably won't understand the numbers but know that today's reading was almost twice as much as Kel has been averaging. We don't want to mislead you, those numbers are still well below where a normal pregnancy would be, but a big step for us. We also learned something else today. These first few days in the hospital, with the added stress and constant monitor adjustments have begun to take their toll on Kel. This morning as Kel sat up in a wheelchair for an extended time she grew very tired and weak. Many factors have contributed to her lack of good rest but please pray that she begin to get more rest especially knowing that Caroline appears to be doing well.