At 12:42 a.m., on September 18, 2008, Elijah Abram Strother was born via c-section at Wright Medical Center in Clarion, Iowa. He was 36 weeks, 4 days and weighed 7 pounds 2 ounces. Shortly after birth, the hospital staff noticed he was having trouble breathing. The decision was made to take Eli to Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines. My husband and I stayed behind, due to my c-section.
At 4 a.m. September 19th, we received a call from Blank that Eli had pulmonary hypertension, the same disease that killed our second child. By noon on the 20th, we were at Eli's side starting our long journey in the NICU. Eli was on a ventilator with 100% oxygen, nitric oxide, blood pressure medications, and sedatives, so he would remain still. The first week, Eli fluctuated with the amount of oxygen he received, always ending back at or around 100%. We weren't getting anywhere, and we were warned that we might have to be transferred to Iowa City, where they could administer more nitric oxide. He also was showing signs of an infection, but no one was sure what kind. At about two weeks old, Eli started to show very small, very slow improvements and the virus mystery was finally solved. He had an interovirus and viral meningitis. Very slowly, over the next several weeks, Eli improved. One by one medications were being taken away, the percentage of oxygen and nitric oxide were decreasing steadily, and he was starting to get milk through a feeding tube. Eventually, we hit a plateau on his oxygen decrease and opted to use steroids to lessen the inflammation in his lungs. However, the use of steroids posed the threat of neurological damage. After a few doses, the steroids worked and we were on our way again. At almost four weeks old, we got to hold Eli for the first time!
At about 4 1/2 weeks old, Eli was put on cycle c-pap. A couple days later, Eli was moved to regular c-pap, followed by vapotherm, and eventually he just had a nasal canula. Now it was time to try a bottle. Bottle-feeding was very slow going. By mid-November feeding was the only thing keeping him in the hospital. So we could go home, we were looking at placing a g-tube to make sure he could take all his feedings. Running out of time before surgery, it was decided to try and treat him for reflux. The first step was to switch his formula to Enfamil AR. He took the entire bottle, of the new formula, and never faltered after that. Before leaving, Eli received a brain MRI to check for possible problems. Everything looked normal. Before leaving Eli was taken off the nasal canula. On November 22nd, 65 days after his birth, we were discharged and on our way home. The only equipment we had to take with us was a pulse ox to check the oxygen in his blood, and we were given a schedule on how to wean him off methadone, so he wouldn't go through withdrawal from all the medications he was on in the hospital.
Since being home, Eli has thrived. December 19, 2008, he came off methadone without a hitch. The first several months, he was a little hypertonic, so we had to do daily stretches, and physical therapy would check on us every couple weeks. In December 2008, we had checkups with his neurologist and pulmonologist, both doctors gave him a clean bill of health. He is now 4 1/2 years old, only has seasonal allergies, and isn't showing any signs of developmental delays!
We can't thank the staff at Blank Children's Hospital enough. We had excellent doctors, nurse practitioners, and nurses. They always kept us informed and let us help make decisions in Eli's care. They also made us feel comfortable every step of the way. They are a very special group of people and they will always hold a special place in our hearts.