I was fortunate enough to have a very understanding boss (who just happened to be Declan's Godfather) and was able to take as many days off as I needed. As such, I spent the first two weeks with Michelle and Declan, including the first two nights in the hospital in Michelle's "luxury suite". See, when you work in the hospital you deliver in, and when you are well respected and liked by so many of the nurses on all the different shifts, you receive quite special treatment. When we first arrived in the hospital, the nurses in L&D had called up to Mother/Baby on the 5th floor and reserved what has to be the best room for recovering mothers -- complete with private shower and bathroom!
Hours before Mommy, Declan and daddy were set to go home on Wednesday the 7th, some of Michelle's nursing coworkers came up to see Declan. One of the nurses, Jennifer Richert, noticed a strange, steady shaking of little Declan's left leg and arm. We noticed two more seizures like this before we were due to be discharged. Realizing that something could be seriously wrong, Declan's pediatrician, Dr. Triantos, ordered an EEG (electroencephalogram) after the second seizure was observed to see what was happening in little Declan's brain and to see if these twitches were indeed seizures.
The preparation for the EEG turned out to be the first of many stressful experiences for new parents. The technician proceeded to place nearly 20 electrodes all over little Declan's little head (mommy couldn't bear to watch this, as it looked like a craniotomy patient with all these wires and gauze wrapped around such a small and precious little head.) About 15 minutes into the 60 minute test, the indelicate technician decided to "diagnose" what she was seeing and exclaimed how many seizures little Declan was experiencing. This immediately sent mommy over the edge (and Daddy too for seeing what an insensitive person can do so quickly!). We would later find out that this EEG was "markedly abnormal" and certainly was the beginning of what was to be the longest, most stressful and painful 48 hours that Michelle or I have ever experienced!
Declan had at least one more visible seizure during the EEG and near the end had a choking attack that might have been associated with a seizure as well; he wasn't breathing initially and had an absolutely terrified look in his little eyes. Before I knew what was happening, a NICU nursing crew whisked Michelle and little Declan away to the neonatal intensive care unit. I packed up what I could and rushed down to find them on the 2nd floor.
Simply put: there are not many other three-day old babies as tough and strong as Declan Mark Wirnowski. Through all the tests and procedures Declan displayed amazing strength and courage - something that helped me through all these tests. One very unique aspect to neonatal medicine is that the doctors must begin treating the symptoms before they know what is actually wrong, because with babies as young as this, there simply is not enough time to figure things out and then treat the problem. These seizures could have been caused by such a wide range of things that before we knew it, Declan was plugged into an IV and on two separate antibiotics, an antiviral and had started receiving Phenobarbital to treat the clinical seizures. As if this wasn't enough, the doctors had already ordered a cardiac echogram and CAT (computer-aided tomography) scan of Declan's brain.
Still needing to rule out any form of spinal infection, Declan underwent a very painful lumbar puncture procedure by Dr Chen. I simply could not let our little son go through these tests alone, and although it was extremely hard to watch, I was at Declan's side through every test that he underwent. Michelle, while wanting to be there as well, as far too exhausted after delivering little Declan and nearly four days without any real sleep.
While the heart echo came back clean and very normal, the CAT scan was anything but. Showing signs of a vascular accident (stroke), there appeared to be blood in both ventricles and the choroid plexus of Declan's brain. With two abnormal tests results, the doctors ordered a rush MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan which would provide much more detailed resolution on his brain and would hopefully shed some needed light on what was happening to our new son. The MRI was completed on a tranquilized Declan to make sure he remained still during the entire scan and confirmed what the doctors had believed from the first two tests: something was seriously wrong with our little boy. On top of the abnormal results seen in the EEG and CAT scan, both lumbar punctures ran bloody indicating that there was blood surrounding Declans brain a likely sign of a neonatal stroke. Keep reading...