Friday, November 5, 2010

My First Year as a First-Time Mom

Tough Decisions for My Future Race Car Driver

My interest in medical facilities and equipment started in 2005. Hospitals seemed to be our favorite place to visit from June 2005 to August 2006. June to October was dedicated to visits to my father. Perhaps, I will be able to share that later. Like most, we would not pursue certain topics until someone in the family is affected. And the initial reaction is usually a denial.

In November of that year, I gave birth to my first son. Being my first, I couldn’t wait to see him and have him close to me. However, I was told that, like all newborns, he had to stay in the nursery for a minimum number of hours (I already forgot how long). The doctors make routine checks on vital signs to make sure that the newcomer can survive on is own.

I began to worry on the second day. He was still not allowed to leave the nursery. I was, of course, adamant and anxious to speak with his doctor. Later, I was told that the doctors were ready and will see me at the nursery.

The head resident pediatrician spoke first, explaining their initial observations in my son’s first 48 hours. First, my son had jaundice, which was probably due to incompatibilities in our blood type. I have seen newborns before and they have flushed skin. He was turning a bit yellowish, but was hard to see because of his skin color. So he had to undergo phototherapy and stay in the nursery for a few more days. I said to myself, I can live with that so long as he doesn’t get brain damage.

Then she went on to the sinker. Within my son’s 24 hours, they noticed a slight murmur in his heart. Obviously looking clueless, they asked me to listen using a stethoscope. His heartbeat had a faint rhythm, sort of calming to my ears. I hardly knew how a murmur would sound so I returned the steth. They went on and I knew they tried to simplify it. But it just wasn’t getting in my head. All I got was: my son has a heart condition and that he needs to have some tests as soon as he is done with the phototherapy.

2D Echocardiography @ Philippine Heart Center
For 3 days, I visited and fed him at the nursery. He had to stay in the basinet under 6 big fluorescent lamps. His eyes were covered to keep the bright light from blinding him. He was temporarily removed to have an x-ray, which revealed a dislocated fracture in his right clavicle. I was reassured by the doctors that infants heal fast. They made him a soft brace from cloth to correct the displaced fracture and facilitate healing and growth in its proper position. On his 4th day, we were escorted to Dra Jeanna Ples’ clinic behind the Philippine Heart Center. He had his first 2D Echocardiography screening.

2D Echo and ECG Results
The 2D Echo report revealed interatrial communication with bi-directional shunting, a small Ventricular Septal Defect, Patent Ductus Arteriosus, Pressure gradient across the pulmonary artery = 9mmHg. We were told we had to monitor the pressure across the descending aorta and pulmonary venous drainage. Yes, more medical jargon that I will try to decode later, I thought.

And so, followed our regular visits to Dra Ples. At first, he was checked twice a month. Then, gradually, visits were reduced to once a month until such time that Dra Ples noted a couple of small holes in his heart and a thymic mass in his chest. We were referred to another pediatric cardiologist at the Philippine Heart Center. There, he had his first ECG, blood chemistry, serology (tumor marker) and CT Scan, in addition to his occasional 2D Echo screening. Another X-ray showed that his fracture was healing fast.

X-Ray and CT Scan Results
In June 2006, the CT Scan revealed a “possibility of a thymic mass. Seminoma may also be possible. Pleuro-parenchymal fibrosis, right upper lobe.” The physicians at the Philippine Heart Center recommended an open thoracotomy and mediastinal mass excision.

Being a first-time mom, I could not help but blame myself. I’ve read a lot about pregnancy, preparing for my first baby, asked around for mothering tips, and regularly checked with my Obstetrician-Gynecologist. During pregnancy, I didn’t drink alcohol, take prohibited drugs or any medicine my Ob-Gyne had not prescribed. I didn’t smoke nor stayed near people who smoked. I didn’t eat junk food, drink Coke, or slept late. I was frantic to know how and why.

Dra Ples had been very understanding and soothing because she assured me that it wasn’t, in anyway, my fault. Things like that happen everyday. It is more important to care for him now. Our frequent visits to the PHC also exposed me to the shocking reality that there were so many children with heart disease and congenital defects. And so I learned to be thankful that I have time with my son.

Dra Ples gave us time and suggested that we get another doctor’s opinion. We consulted with pediatricians at the Philippine Children’s Hospital, but we were given the same recommendation. Eventually, by the end of August, my son was cleared of his heart defects. We were so happy, we decided not to have his operation until we notice any change in his health condition.

My future race-car driver @ kindergarten
The following year, he became more physically active. He gained weight and his color changed. He continuously drank his milk. He didn’t turn purple when he cried. We had our happiest moments from then on.



You are one strong mommy, Maam Leah. I could not endure being tortured like that, not having to have your son by your side after birth. I was even ranting when I had my son 2 hours after. But I just could not imagine if I were in your position.

Thank you, Fleire :) I think all mothers are strong. The first day was just the beginning..of a long but meaningful journey. As mothers, it is tough to learn to accept our children's fate. But we are happy and feel blessed that we have each other now.

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